People come to America for many reasons. We come in search of a better life and future. We come for our children – to provide them with more opportunities. But sometimes people try to enter the U.S. at all cost – even if this means committing fraud.
The U.S. Embassy in Manila is considered a high fraud post because of the enormous amount of fake documents and scams people use to get past the gatekeepers. For example, one would pretend to be single while actually married. Another will use a fake passport with a different name or identity. And yet another will not reveal that he has children.
Many immigrants get away with the fraud. They get admitted in the U.S. They arrive and become productive members of the community. Others are less fortunate. They get caught. The penalty is severe. Removal from the U.S. may mean a bar of over ten years.
However, even if a fraud is committed, there is a way to legally stay. Preparation and knowledge are keys. Find out ahead of time how to handle the interview at the immigration office. Any willful misrepresentation of a material fact or the presentation of a fraudulent document will get you in trouble.
However, there are solutions. If you can show that the fraud or misrepresentation was not willful or if it was unintentional, you maybe off the hook. If you didn’t know that you were committing a fraud, how can you be guilty of the fraud? Don’t act as your own attorney. The saying that “one who acts as his own attorney has a fool for a client” applies here. Seek legal counsel if possible.
Even you are caught committing a fraud; there may be waivers that are available. A waiver is a legal term for “forgiving the fraud.” You may be allowed to admit the fraud and still enter the U.S. These are called “waivers of inadmissibility.” There are requirements attached to this waiver. Many of these waivers require that you are related to a U.S. citizen or a “green card” holder. Again see an attorney to find out about these requirements.
If the consul is unable to approve your case the first time, you are entitled to a written explanation. If the fraud can be mitigated, you’ll be given a chance. If not, the reason for the denial should still be in writing. Many consular decisions can be challenged. These State Department employees are humans and they make mistakes. Due to the high volume of cases that are reviewed, errors are not unusual. If you are accused of fraud or misrepresentation and you don’t agree, relax. Take your written explanation with you and see a qualified immigration lawyer.
It’s always better to enter the U.S. legally. But if fraud was committed, don’t give up hope. There are legal loopholes and there are potential reliefs. You can still live a normal life and be a productive member of the community. The key is to know your rights and to get the right advice
Imagine. Just imagine that you're a 25-year-old guy having lived his past nineteen years on Maple Street in one of the suburban enclaves of Oakland or San Francisco. You have grown up like any other American kid: going to school, riding bikes with your buds, working at odd jobs and helping your family, volunteering in the community, unfolding the dreams of your future. You have no yearnings for a foreign land; you're an American.
Then you suddenly find yourself in the Philippines at Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport. To hitch a bus ride into town, you're getting ready to spend too many of the last few dollars you were able to yank from your bank account. You have the clothes on your back, maybe a duffle bag of personal belongings. You have no family, no friends, no home, no job.
You may know a little Spanish, maybe even a smattering of Tagalog, but not quite enough to ask for simple directions, or find a cheap but safe hotel, or a decent place to eat. You are a Dreamer. But your dreams have been shattered. You have been deported from your American home because the nation's lawmakers couldn't figure out how to deal with your kind.
I have a client, Chris, facing such a dilemma. When it comes down to it, he could possibly be facing life-or-death situations if forced to return to his long-forgotten land of origin. Presently, he is under the protection of DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an executive order benevolently provided by former President Obama. That president felt compelled to wield that executive order when a recalcitrant Congress chose not to govern on behalf of youngsters – youngsters who are Americans in every way, except on paper.
The Congress was just too scared to put their political lives on the line by ruling on such a controversial subject. They knew the right thing to do – give these youngsters a solid path to citizenship. But, in a do-nothing mode of governance, which they seem to have perfected over the last eight years or so, they sat on their hands.
Chris is one of the 800,000 facing deportation should DACA be allowed to vanish. These kids and young adults have committed no crime except to innocently follow their parents in search of opportunity and a better life – the American Dream. Trump has vacillated, demanding that Congress come up with legislation. And his attorney general, though all too happy to announce the demise of DACA, has given a do-little Congress six months to find a solution. Don't hold your breath, even though the nation faces bitter loss.
Have a Heart
Yes, Chris and others may be out of luck in a few months. Like many, he is a talented and humble person. He has ambitions of becoming a doctor. He arrived in America from the Philippines at the age of six. (Incidentally, approximately 10,000 Filipino childhood arrivals could be affected if anti-immigrant forces have their way.)
His family was poor but they persevered. His dad took labor-intensive jobs while his mom was the homemaker. Chris has expressed his desire to help those who can’t afford to pay for a doctor. He knows he has a long way to go, but doesn't mind the wait and the hard work to get there.
He continues to go to school and works to help his family. He has never committed a crime and volunteers often at a local homeless shelter. During one meeting Chris told me that he sees the need for caring doctors in the community. “People just need to feel that they are being listened to,” he told me. Of course, he has hopes of one day raising an American family in an American home.
An Assault on Contributing Americans
The cancellation of DACA would be a direct assault on the thousands of immigrants like Chris. They are studying and working, paying taxes, and making a significant contribution to America. Dreamers like Chris are Americans. These youngsters have tried to make the best of the opportunities that they encounter. Many are volunteers within their communities.
DACA has proved to be a success. Simply put, it gives undocumented young people, brought to the U.S. as children, an opportunity to study and work without fear of deportation. It provides a two-year time of protection and a permit to work legally. And then there is a renewal process and the requirements are stringent. High school enrollment or successfully receiving a diploma or GED is necessary. Honorable military discharges are acknowledged. There can be no criminal record. Each must have lived in the U.S. continually since 2007.
There is no sane reason to deport or remove these Dreamers. In fact, consider the insane costs incurred should the authorities have to hunt down 800,000 youngsters, take them to court, and then physically relocate them abroad.
Consideration should also be given to the loss of revenue should we deport these folks. Dreamers contribute significantly to our economy. For instance, reports have shown that eliminating DACA would cost $433.4 billion in GDP over a decade, and reduce Social Security and Medicare tax contributions by $24.6 billion over the same time period.
Relying on the hope and promise of our American government, these trusting youngsters have come forward, revealing their lives and their whereabouts, submitting résumés and applications. Should DACA fall away, they have laid themselves bare, ready to be grabbed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and sent abroad to lands they do not know. A trust betrayed.
Anti-immigrant forces assert that ending DACA would mean more available jobs and more economic opportunity for natives. No facts back up those assertions. To the contrary, young and busy people have always been an economic benefit to our nation, no matter their origin.
Indeed, we are already seeing immense opposition from the high-tech industry sector. Apple and Microsoft employ many DACA workers. Some of my friends from Stanford University believe that many Ivy League schools will be taking a formal position opposing the loss of DACA.
As a nation of well-meaning immigrants – And we all are, aren't we? – we cannot afford to stand aside and let these Dreamers be tossed away. It's plain cruel and not in line with traditional American values. This is not a time to be partisan, or to label ourselves liberal or conservative, or to make this a racial issue. This is a human crisis crying out for humane action.
Good Americans must raise their voices in communications with representatives and use their ballots for the good cause. What’s at stake are the lives of thousands of young people who call America their home. Congress must act quickly to pass a bipartisan Dream Act of 2017, without any holds, games, or trades by any party. We must not play political ping-pong with the futures of these young American Dreamers.
Perhaps one day my client Chris will become Dr. Chris, if we allow him to have his American dream. Or, maybe one day Chris will be sitting at a desolate bus stop in a foreign land, wondering what happened, what his next desperate move might be, shaking his head about America and lost promise. There is no point to this cruel madness.
Face it: There's no way that we have the funds, the apparatus, nor even the national will to round up 11 million human beings and ship them back from whence they came. And the ludicrous declaration by Donald Trump that he would just create a “deportation force” to raid and hunt them down is simply outrageous and dangerous. What’s needed is a humane compromise that allows immigration integration even if the road to US Citizenship remains challenging.
Also, on the face of it, this effort to round up illegal immigrants would be downright cruel. Families would be split for an indeterminable amount of time, if not permanently. Much well-functioning social fabric would be shredded. Like it or not, many undocumented people have established themselves as contributing members of innumerable communities. And there's no doubt that either would weigh heavily on those businesses – construction, agriculture, and service industries among them – that must have affordable labor. These two simple paragraphs I've just written bleed with the unwritten questions they evoke. The biggest being: How do you deal with 11 million people in a humane way that will not adversely affect the social and business realities of today?
What's Really Happening Now – Secure Borders and Deportations
Trump and the majority of the Republican Party have been moaning about secure borders and deportations. If they checked concrete sources, they'd be ecstatic with our out-going president. Obama has increased our border policing to double what it used to be. Under him deportations have increased to about 400,000 a year due to an ardent emphasis on getting convicted criminals out of the country. And under him the government has ratcheted up spending to about $17 billion a year on immigration enforcement. Checking figures, they would see that this sum is more than is spent by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the F.B.I., and even the Secret Service, combined. So the whining about secure borders and increased deportations doesn't mean much.
Social and Labor Complexities
Probably one of the biggest quandaries lies with the labor unions, businesses, and internal enforcement of immigration laws. Many unskilled workers, citizens and non-citizens, aren't being paid a living wage. At its present deal of less than eight bucks an hour as a minimum, even that isn't a living wage. When a farmer can pay less than minimum wage to get tomatoes out of his fields, he's going to do it. Of course, even unskilled citizen-laborers can't compete with that and hold an entire household, along with a vehicle, together.
Can't Afford to Work
So, the contention really isn't the fact that undocumented workers are taking jobs away from American workers; it's that immigrants are the only ones who can afford – by necessity – to work those jobs. Those jobs are better than any they would find in their countries of origin. Yet, on the other hand, the majority of citizen-workers for Walmart must rely on community safety nets for health care and food budget help. Something is just not right and it's not just the immigration issue when it comes down to how all American workers are treated by business interests.
Reagan Laid the Trap, Non-Enforcement Sprang It
In 1986, President Reagan legalized about three million immigrants without papers. Due to business interests that lobbied to prevent any tough enforcement regarding employers who hired unauthorized workers, no illegal immigration laws were brought to bear. The resulting no-questions-asked job market just lured many more immigrants and that caused a lot of the taking-away-American-jobs backlash. It's ironic that many of the right-wing interests deploring a road to citizenship nowadays probably helped foment the whole situation back during the Reagan years by asking Uncle Sam to look the other way while they put the pickers in the fields.
Compromise and Conciliation
To be effective, immigration reform should allow folks to come out of hiding. They should be allowed to work, send their children to school and college, even travel abroad, and serve in the military, without fear of deportation while they await their green cards. They probably should not be eligible for any federal benefits and certainly not allowed to vote. But a door must be opened for these people. There is no workable alternative. These compromises are necessary for one of the biggest breakthroughs in immigration reform seen in years. And it is within reach, the gears greased by the last presidential election. This summer action will be hot for Congress to take some decisive steps.
Lazaro Law Group, Managing Attorney