Is there such a thing as the “10-year law”?

Many immigrant, especially when the political climate becomes considerably hostile, look for a way to legalize their status – either to go from undocumented to permanent resident or from permanent resident to US citizen. Potential clients that I have talked to sometimes say, they never felt the need to do it, didn’t have the money or time, etc.

Some, who have been living in the shadows, thought they could find a way to legalize their status because they were promised a lie. The way it works is simple – an asylum application is filed on behalf of the immigrant (for which they do not qualify), once 180 days pass they are entitled to a work permit (which makes them think it is going well), when they go to the interview they most assuredly fail (since they don’t meet the statutory definition of an asylee) – which is the plan actually, and then they are put into deportation proceedings in immigration court. At this point, the applicant is in danger of being removed but they are told that there is another process called “Cancellation of Removal”,  which, if you have been in the country you might qualify for under certain circumstances.

The people who purport to offer this “service” end up ruining multiple lives and families. Most don’t tell their clients the risks of applying for this benefit. A recent news article by Buzzfeed News, which can be found here, tells the tale of a number of people who were duped into applying for this “law” and are now in danger of deportation, after spending thousands of dollars.

I have had potential clients come to me after they experienced such a turn of events, either with an attorney or notario. One even said that the notario claimed to be an attorney, right up to the point of having to show up to court, which he did not do, since he couldn’t.

Right or wrong, immigrants need to realize the importance of having good, ethical legal advice. Immigrants should vet their attorneys when seeking services. Here are some tips to do just that:

  • Online reviews are not perfect, but they can give you a sense of the person
  • Check the bar websites – every attorney has to be licensed in a state and should be eager to tell you which one. Confirm they are actually licensed attorneys.
  • Ask questions. Know what you are signing. Don’t let the attorney say “trust me, I got this.” Part of legal representation is making sure that as your agent, the attorney carries out your wishes. If I don’t know what your wishes are, then I can’t do that.
  • Ethically speaking, an attorney is governed by their state bar. Gross misconduct can result in disbarment – notarios and the like are not governed by such standards. There is recourse to be had should the attorney grossly mishandle your case.
  • Go in with reasonable expectations – NOBODY can guarantee an outcome. Anyone who does is lying. You cannot expect the attorney to have control over USCIS or the courts. We do our best.

Getting second opinions, information from reliable sources and spending a little money to get the right information is all worth it in the end. Pulling the trigger on an immigration process can be life altering. Doing a little bit of homework upfront is the least you can do to protect yourself.