Andrea Montavon-McKillip, the founder and head attorney at Montavon McKillip Law, has been practicing law for over two decades and has extensive knowledge in all areas of immigration law. If you are looking for personalized assistance and skilled representation on any immigration matters, look no further than Montavon McKillip Law.
Each year, tens of thousands of people arrive in America seeking refuge from persecution based on their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. U.S. law provides for asylum for individuals who are inside the United States and can demonstrate that they are being persecuted on account of one of those five protected grounds. (Refugees are those that are granted protection after applying from inside a third country and thereafter allowed to enter the United States.)
Asylum is meant to help a narrow subset of people fleeing persecution and is not meant to address conditions that affect all people in the home country without respect to a protected ground, such as war, natural disasters, generalized violence, and similar dangers.
Asylum applications (Form I-589) must be filed within one year of arriving in the United States, with limited exceptions. If your application for asylum is approved, you will be able to apply to adjust your status to a lawful permanent resident one year after the date of the asylum approval. Once you become a lawful permanent resident, the date of residency that appears on your green card will be “rolled back” one year so that you can qualify to apply for U.S. citizenship one year early.
It is important to be aware of the risks of applying for asylum, and to carefully weigh those risks against the potential benefits.
VAWA Petitions (I-360)
If you or someone you know is facing abuse, there is a way to self-petition under VAWA – without involving the person who has hurt you. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) allows individuals who have been abused by their U.S. citizen or resident spouse or parent (including stepparent), or by their U.S. citizen adult child to seek lawful permanent residency (green card).
The Form I-360 is the form that is used to request status under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). You must show that you reside or have resided with the abuser in the past. You will also need to submit proof of battery and/or extreme cruelty – however, this does not mean that you must have reported your abuser to the police in order to receive VAWA protection. If the petition is marriage-based, you must be able to show that it was a good faith marriage.
It is important to understand that strict confidentiality provisions apply to VAWA petitions such that abusers and third parties cannot get any information from the U.S. government about the victim, not even whether a petition was filed. Your abuser is not allowed to find out from USCIS that you filed for VAWA protection.
U Visas for Victims of Crime (I-918)
Victims of certain crimes may be eligible for the U visa if they have cooperated with reasonable requests from law enforcement and can show serious harm (physical or psychological) from the criminal activity. The category was created by Congress for dual purposes – public safety and humanitarian interests. The U visa was meant to assist law enforcement and increase public safety by encouraging immigrants to come forward voluntarily and report their victimization, instead of suffering in silence out of fear of deportation. It was also designed to protect victims of crime and ensure that perpetrators cannot use their victim’s immigration status to escape accountability. In order to apply for a U visa, you must have a signed certification from law enforcement (I-918 Supplement B) certifying your cooperation with the investigation or prosecution.
A U visa approval will eventually allow the U visa petitioner to apply for lawful permanent residence. However, there is an extreme backlog in the issuance of U visas, as Congress only authorized the government to issue 10,000 U visas per year. According to the most recent numbers that USCIS reported to Congress, there are nearly 200,000 individuals who have applied and are waiting for U visa approval.
T Visas for Trafficking Victims (I-914)
A T visa is an immigration benefit for victims of severe forms of human trafficking, including labor and sex trafficking. This program allows victims to remain in the United States if they meet certain requirements, including complying with reasonable requests from law enforcement for assistance in the investigation or prosecution of trafficking. Unlike the U visa, a signed law enforcement certification is not required. A careful legal analysis is required to determine whether an individual qualifies for a T visa.
TPS (Temporary Protected Status)
If you are currently in the United States and your country has been designated for Temporary Protected Status (TPS), you may qualify to apply for TPS and employment authorization through USCIS. The Secretary of Homeland Security can designate a foreign country for TPS when conditions make it dangerous or otherwise impossible for its citizens to return home from the United States. Countries may be designated for TPS when they are experiencing war or after natural disasters like a hurricane or earthquake. It is important to pay attention to not only the initial TPS registration deadlines but also to renewing your TPS in a timely fashion.
While TPS is an important protection when you are unable to return to your country, it is only a temporary measure, and standing alone, TPS does not give noncitizens the ability to become permanent residents.
Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS)
Special immigrant juvenile status (SIJS) is an immigration benefit to protect noncitizen children in the United States who cannot live with one or both parents due to abuse, abandonment, neglect, or similar basis under state law, such as when the child has been orphaned. SIJS is a unique immigration benefit because, although immigration law is federal law, the benefit requires the findings of a state court under state law. The court must be a juvenile court, dependency court, delinquency, family court, probate court (guardianship), or any other state court with jurisdiction over the custody of the child. In order to seek SIJS, the state court must have either found the child dependent or made a custody placement. The state court must also have made specific factual findings that it is not in the child’s best interest to return to their home country, and that the child cannot be reunified with one or both parents due to abuse, abandonment, neglect, or similar basis under state law. Children who are granted SIJS are eligible to apply for permanent residence (green card), but they will never be able to use their lawful immigration status to petition for their parents.
Other Humanitarian Immigration Options
Humanitarian Parole: Immigration authorities within the Department of Homeland Security have the authority to parole noncitizens into the United States on a case-by-case basis for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit, even when they wouldn’t otherwise be admissible. This usually happens under emergency circumstances, such as when a noncitizen needs to enter the United States for emergency medical treatment or for the funeral of a relative. However, there are also humanitarian parole programs set up for specific groups of people, such as the parole process set up for Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans (CHNV) based on the ongoing crises and conditions in those countries.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) – Renewals Only: The DACA Program was set up to help “Dreamers,” i.e., those immigrant children and young people who had been brought into the United States through no fault of their own, grew up in the United States, but were unable to move forward to college and employment as they became adults because of their lack of lawful immigration status. DACA provided these young people with protection from deportation and employment authorization. Though wildly successful in helping nearly 2 million young people, the DACA program has been under attack in the courts for several years now, and it remains unclear how much longer it will last. Due to court decisions, USCIS is only processing renewal applications, and applications of those DACA recipients whose prior DACA grant expired less than a year prior.
Humanitarian Options in Removal Proceedings
There are various humanitarian options, such as cancellation of removal, that are only available to noncitizens who have been placed in removal proceedings in Immigration Court. Montavon McKillip Law has a limited capacity to take on clients who are already in removal proceedings before an Immigration Court. If you are in removal proceedings, please contact us through the contact form and we will let you know if we are taking on new court cases before scheduling you for an initial consultation.
With over two decades of experience and an extensive knowledge base in all areas of immigration law, Andrea Montavon-McKillip is a perfect choice. Her dedication to her clients ensures that their rights and interests are protected, and their needs are met.