Sometimes when you ask the government for mercy, you actually get it.
In the first three weeks of January, we’ve had two seemingly hopeless cases turn into wonderful successes.
The first case involved a mother from Africa. She has a very young son who was born in the United States. However, he has a medical condition that requires a blood transfusion every six months.
The mother had been coming to the U.S. on a tourist visa, but the trips back and forth were getting expensive and were exhausting. Without family ties (her son has to be 21 to petition for her), or an employment offer, she has no way to permanently immigrate.
Thankfully, deferred action exists for situations such as this.
Deferred action simply means that, although you do not have permanent status, you are protected from deportation. It also means that you can apply for a work card – which in Georgia, also means you can apply for a driver’s license.
It’s an entirely discretionary action, meaning that you are completely at the mercy of the adjudicator.
We approached the local USCIS office, detailing and documenting the family’s situation, and last week USCIS granted our request.
This mother now has three years in the United States where she can focus on her son, not on her status. She will also have the ability to be independent – working, driving and simply living her life. In three years, should the situation remain the same, we can ask for the deferred action to be renewed.
The second case involves a mother and her teenage son from Central America. They were caught coming to the U.S. without a visa in late 2013.
The mother had been here before and has three U.S. citizen children. The son was 18 and had been a target for some gang violence back at home. They knew the best chance for him to be safe was in the United States.
They were caught at the border, though, and were put in deportation proceedings. They came to me for help, but there seemed to be no way to fight to keep them here in the United States.
They had not been in the United States long enough to take advantage of the President’s Executive Action – no DACA or DAPA. Any claim to Asylum was very weak. The mother’s children are too young to petition for her. The son, by this time, had a girlfriend and they were expecting a child. He’ll have a U.S. citizen child soon, but that doesn’t help his immigration case. He and his girlfriend got married, and while she has DACA, she’s not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, so she cannot file for him to stay, either. It seemed we were at a dead end.
Then I thought about President Obama.
When he made his Executive Action announcement, he repeatedly used the phrase “deport felons, not families.” Holding the government to this pledge, I approached them to ask for their discretion to not deport this mother and her son – they have no criminal record and they do have family in the U.S. with legal immigration status. They are family, not felons.
I went to ICE because they had started the deportation process against the mother and son. I explained the family’s situation and that there was no way that they would qualify for permanent immigration relief. I asked them to exercise prosecutorial discretion and to no longer seek deportation against my clients.
ICE responded early in the new year and agreed to my request!
They administratively closed the deportation case – meaning that my clients do not have to go through a court system that would have forced them to leave.
My clients still have no legal status in the United States, they do not get a work card, they do not get the ability to travel back and forth, but they are able to stay here without the threat of imminent deportation.
Should either of them get into trouble in the future, though, they absolutely could go back to see the Immigration Judge.
They have been given a second chance, though, and I have faith that they will be law-abiding, respectful and diligent residents of this country.
Certainly, the government, be it USCIS or ICE, does not always agree to exercise their discretion to help immigrants who find themselves in seemingly impossible situations. But when they do, families get to stay together.
These two families had everything to gain and nothing to lose by asking the government for discretion.
When discretion was granted, hope and elation replaced the stress and anxiety that had been consuming their lives. I know they do not have easy lives ahead of them, but I know they will be not nearly as difficult because of what we were able to accomplish with the government.