What Has Changed in Immigration Law? Alaska and the new world of immigration
BY NICOLÁS OLANO
Under President Trump’s administration there have been two major changes to immigration laws. The first is what is meant by the word “crime.” For purposes of immigration law, from now on every offense, whether there is a conviction or not, will be considered a crime. During President Obama’s term, a person accused of a minor robbery would not be adversely affected for immigration purposes. In the current administration that person would be considered a criminal under immigration law.
The second important change is to the deportation mechanism for undocumented immigrants. Before these changes were approved, expedited deportation was applied only to persons seized without documents within 100 miles of the United States’s border. This fringe area will not be considered anymore, and section 235 of the Immigration and Nationality Act will be applied to every undocumented person anywhere in the country. So whenever a person cannot prove that he or she entered the United States legally, they will be deported without the right to a hearing before an immigration court, no matter where they are found. Entering the US legally means having a visa, being inspected by a US official, and not committing any fraud (making an untrue statement).
From the geographic point of view, consider that Trump’s orders are focused on the states that share a border with Mexico. So before feeling overwhelmed remember that in Alaska the enforcement of immigration law has not been a priority. Raids and detentions such as the ones happening in Florida, Texas and California are difficult to implement here, since in Alaska the ICE (Immigration & Customs Enforcement) has fewer human resources than in those states. So you have to be prepared, but shouting that the house is burning is irresponsible. Such gestures scare our community and are used by unscrupulous people to raise funds to exploit immigrants. Before you let yourself be carried away by fear, consider this information and take the necessary actions.
If you have a criminal record, speak to an attorney immediately. If you do not have documents and entered the border without being inspected, gather all documentation that demonstrates that you have been in the United States for more than two years. If you entered with a visa you do not need to show that you have spent those years in the country, but you should prove that you used the visa appropriately. If the visa or entry was obtained by fraud, gather information showing that you have been in the United States for more than two years. If you have been here less than two years and if you entered without papers, you can be subjected to an expedited removal. The only way to avoid this would be to apply for asylum for political beliefs, gender, nationality or religion. In any case talk to an immigration lawyer to see what other options may exist for you and your family.
Above all, try to keep calm and remember that being prepared and knowing your rights will empower you and your people to defend yourselves.
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