Last week was one of those weeks that makes us happy to be immigration lawyers. It ended with several families relieved that their personal journeys to legal status in the U.S. are ended and their lives as U.S. residents have begun. Here are their stories:
- YA and EF are a married couple from Bolivia, who have lived in the U.S. for well over a decade. YA quit working because her son, Joshua, has microcephaly. A child with microcephaly has an underdeveloped brain. Joshua can not walk, talk, feed or clean himself and depends upon his parents and doctors for everything. YA and EF have two other healthy children. All of the children are American citizens. EF works construction and is a skilled carpenter, leaving home at 5 and returning in the evening. Both YA and EF were placed into removal proceedings for overstaying their entry into the U.S. We applied for cancellation of removal, which is available to an individual: (1) who has been in the U.S. for at least ten years; (2) who possesses good moral character; and (3) whose removal would cause exceptional and extremely unusual hardship to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse, parent or child. The hardship standard is often very hard to meet. Not here. Upon reviewing the medical documents in the record and hearing YA describe her care for her son, the government agreed to a grant of cancellation of removal. The Judge told them what impressive people they were and what great care they were giving their son. It is always an honor to be able to serve such people.
- AC came to us with a removal order from an immigration judge in Salt Lake City, even though she had been married to a permanent resident for over a decade and was the mother of a U.S. citizen. The immigration judge had been ready to grant her residence when at the last minute, the Citizenship & Immigration Service, at the direction of Immigration & Customs Enforcement, sought to revoke the immigrant petition it had approved on her behalf a decade earlier stating that she married her husband to get a green card. Most shockingly, the CIS offered no explanation of why it thought so. That revocation was enough for the immigration judge to conclude that she could not qualify for residence and order her removed. It was at that point that we got involved. We appealed everything. We appealed the judge’s order; we appealed the revocation and we filed a new petition by her U.S. citizen daughter, who turned 21 while the case was going on. Both appeals were granted, the petition was approved, and after three trips to Utah, the CIS finally granted her residence, twenty years after she married her husband and he filed a petition for her. AC is devout Christian from Guatemala who cleans homes in the ski areas for captains of industry and Silicon valley titans. She is also one of the most relentless fighters we have ever met and we are thrilled to celebrate this moment with her.
- MS is from Honduras. As a eighteen year old, she made her way out of poverty and violence and crossed the U.S. border in the back seat of a car with four others. She met and fell in love with DB, an American born lawyer living here in Virginia. When they first came to see us, we explained that the process of getting her residence would require her to leave the U.S. and become subject to the ten year bar on returning. Of course, there was a waiver of the ten year bar that she could apply for. There was no guarantee she would get it and it meant at least two years in Honduras waiting for a decision and hoping for an approval. If approved, she could return to the U.S. and live with her husband. If not, it meant eight more years until they could reunite and reside in the U.S. Unwilling to risk it, we lost them as a client until the Obama administration introduced the I-601A provisional waiver. This slight change in rules allowed someone who needs a waiver of the ten year bar to apply while in the U.S. and to proceed abroad to get her visa only once the waiver is approved. MS and DB were one of the first in our offices to seek to take advantage of this change. A petition was filed and approved. The provisional waiver was granted. MS went to the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa last week and applied for her visa, which was quickly granted. She is returning to the U.S. later this month a permanent resident.
FM and CO are wife and husband. She, FM, is from Rwanda. CO is from Congo. They have been in the U.S. since the 90s after entering on student visas and completing their studies. They met in the U.S. and fell in love. They married and had two boys, both of whom are autistic. The younger one, Joshua, has many challenges including communication, impulse control and learning. FM and CO are constantly monitoring their boys’ health and must always been on high alert for behavioral issues. Although they live in North Carolina, they came to our offices in Washington DC because they heard Benach on the radio discussing immigration court. In the consultation, we discussed their fears of harm to their boys and themselves in Africa due to their disability. It was shortly after the 4th Circuit issued its decision in Temu v. Holder in which it held mental illness could form the basis for a valid asylum claim. We decided to apply for asylum. However, due to the one year rule for asylum, the asylum office placed them into removal proceedings. In removal proceedings, they could apply for cancellation of removal. However, the immigration judge wanted them to proceed with the asylum application first and refused to consider the cancellation applications. A major showdown was averted when Immigration & Customs Enforcement, envisioning protracted litigation over asylum, agreed to a grant of cancellation of removal. After a thirty minute hearing, the Judge indicated that he would grant the applications.
It was truly an exceptional week and we are humbled and thrilled to share in these victories for our clients.