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Arriaga free to continue pursuing his application for a green card.
Nearly a year later, though he was still chasing paperwork, he did not regret having walked into the immigration office.
Hurdles remained: Applicants still had to undergo vetting and security checks, for example, and prove that being deported would cause an American citizen — a spouse, for example — significant hardship.
But once an immigration officer certified that their marriages were real, those with old deportation orders could ask an immigration judge to lift them so they could move on with their applications.
Her husband was apologizing, saying he was sorry for putting her through all of this. As the Trump administration arrests thousands of immigrants with no criminal history and reshapes the prospects of even legal immigrants — an overdue corrective, officials say, to the lenient policies of the past — many who have lived without papers for years are urgently seeking legal status by way of a parent, adult child or spouse who is already a citizen or permanent resident.
Thirteen years after her husband was ordered deported back to his native Brazil, the official recognition of their marriage would bring him within a few signatures of being able to call himself an American. Then the officer reappeared.“I’ve got some good news and some bad news,” he said.
Until 2013, undocumented applicants had to leave the country and wait out the application process from abroad, in some cases for as long as a decade, before returning with green cards.
Then the Obama administration created a waiver to abbreviate the process.
Despite a national campaign to get him released, the man, Melecio Andazola Morales, was deported in December. 8, immigration agents in San Francisco went a step further, arresting a Sudanese man at his interview for asylum, where he was supposed to be given a chance to explain why he feared returning to his home country. Joyce, who said at least five clients of his firm had been arrested in the middle of applying for a marriage-based green card over the last year, including two who were later deported.
He had overstayed his visa, according to his lawyer, but had no criminal history or deportation order. An ICE spokesman, John Mohan, said that ICE has always worked with other government agencies to gather information for enforcement purposes.“ICE does not exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement,” he said.
Now, however, it is risky simply to show up for an interview.“For many individuals, it’s sort of this Sophie’s choice of remaining in the shadows, without formal immigration status,” or hazarding arrest, said Genia Blaser, a staff attorney at the Immigrant Defense Project, a New York-based group that has been fielding calls from immigrants concerned about the new policies. officers had routinely alerted their counterparts at ICE to marriage applicants with old deportation orders, but only since President Trump took office had immigration agents begun to arrest those people at interviews.