The premier Spanish-language newspaper “El Diario” turns to Catholic Charities Director of Immigrant and Refugee Services C. Mario Russell for regular updates on immigration reform.
Learn this week in El Diario about a possible silver lining for a lucky few during deportation proceedings.
By C. Mario Russell
Immigrants who have lived in the United States for a long time and seek legal help regularly ask: “Can I get my residence under the Ten-Year Residence Law?” You may be wondering the same thing.
The answer, for better or worse, is always the same: “It depends.”
The ten-year residence law, called “Cancellation of Removal,” was created by Congress in 1996 to help long-time undocumented residents living in the United States receive legal permanent residence. A key point is that it is available only to immigrants whose case is being heard by an Immigration Judge. Let me repeat, no one is eligible for this residence unless he or she is presently in immigration court in deportation proceedings.
To qualify for cancellation of removal and receive legal permanent residence, you must:
- have continuously resided in the U.S. for at least ten years
- have had good moral character for ten years
- prove that your deportation would cause “exceptional and extremely unusual hardship” to a relative who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, meaning a spouse, parent or child
This is a difficult burden, and the results of these cases vary depending on the prosecutor and the judge. Cancellation of Removal cases are especially complicated to prepare because they require lots of documentation. They also require a competent attorney who spends hours helping witness prepare for and give their testimony.
Take for example, someone who entered the U.S. from Mexico in 2003, married another Mexican national and had two children while in the U.S. Since the children were born here, they are U.S. citizens. During his time in the U.S., he worked and paid taxes (or is willing to pay back taxes) and has no criminal record. If that individual wound up in removal proceedings, he could apply for Cancellation of Removal and argue that his removal to Mexico would cause exceptional and extremely unusual hardship to his U.S. citizen children. His life, his contributions to our society, and the needs of his children would be the subject of a real inquiry by an Immigration Judge. Sometimes, U.S. citizen children may have special medical or educational needs that would be inadequately treated in another country if they were to move there with their parents.
Finally, only 4,000 immigrants can be granted Cancellation of Removal in any year. Per year. Nationwide.
Therefore, under no circumstances should any lawyer or preparer of any kind offer to file a Cancellation of Removal claim if there is no immigration court case. And, even then, the decision to pursue it should be made carefully, as the result will always “depend”.
Read the full post in Spanish in El Diario.
Mario Russell is Director of Immigrant and Refugee Services at Catholic Charities, 80 Maiden Lane NYC and teaches immigration law at St. John’s University School of Law.