YES – HERE’S WHY:
Last week, I had a consultation that absolutely broke my heart. Why? Because a very nice 22-year-old man – a husband and father of two – made a few innocent, but horrible decisions that destroyed his chances to gain lawful immigration status in the United States. And it could have all been avoided had he spoken with an immigration attorney.
Let’s call him Jorge. Jorge entered the United States with a visa when he was 10 years old and stayed.
In 2012, he married a U.S. citizen. He could have applied for Adjustment of Status and gotten his green card here in the United States right then. However, instead of that, he applied for DACA in 2013. DACA is a great program, but it’s only a temporary work card at the end of the day.
I asked Jorge if he had help with his DACA application and he told me that he did, but it wasn’t an attorney who helped him. I had guessed as much because an attorney would have told him that instead of a work card, he could have gotten a green card.
Jorge didn’t realize this, though, because he got his DACA case granted. He had no idea he was missing out on something so much better.
Sadly, Jorge’s mother died this past fall back in Mexico. Instead of waiting to get Advance Parole – travel permission – from USCIS, which would have taken several months, he just left the United States.
The moment he crossed the border back into Mexico, he triggered an unlawful presence bar. That means that if wanted to come back to the United States legally, he would need a waiver. However, instead of coming back legally, he tried to sneak back in. But he was caught at the border.
By trying to enter without inspection after triggering that unlawful presence bar, Jorge created a second problem. He now has an unwaivable ten-year bar. If he wants to become a lawful permanent resident of the United States, his only option is to stay in Mexico for ten years before he can even apply for a waiver to start the process. There’s no way to try before then, even though he’s married to a U.S. citizen and has two U.S. citizen children.
The Border Officer saw Jorge’s DACA work card and let him back into the United States. But Jorge cannot reapply for DACA because he left the United States without Advanced Parole. His marriage to a United States citizen doesn’t help him either now because his departure and entry without inspection created two new bars of inadmissibility – one of which cannot be fixed until he’s been outside the country for ten years.
All of this could have been avoided back in 2013 when Jorge first talked to someone about DACA. Sure, he got DACA approved. Did he need an attorney to file his DACA application for him? No. But would have to talk to an attorney changed his life? Absolutely.
He would have learned that he could have gotten a green card instead of a temporary work card that didn’t allow him to travel. Instead of having lawful permanent residency, Jorge has nothing and no hope of fixing his status in the foreseeable future.
By trying to save a few dollars and working with a notario instead of an attorney in 2013, it has cost Jorge everything.