Many undocumented immigrants in Florida live in fear that a brush with the law may lead to deportation. Unfortunately, their fear is justified. For those with prior convictions, even a minor offense like a traffic violation can lead to incarceration in a detention center and the initiation of deportation proceedings.
For many immigrants living in Florida, the path to U.S. citizenship or permanent residency begins with a visa application. As we discussed in an earlier post, there are many reasons an application for a U.S. visa could be denied. These include health reasons, conviction of certain crimes or a perceived threat to national security. Similarly, an application for legal permanent resident status -- a green card -- can be denied for any number of reasons.
Many immigrants to the United States, including many in the Miami area, came here as children or infants. Some were brought by their parents, and some were adopted from overseas by U.S. couples. These children have attended American schools, made friends in America, grown up in America and started careers here. Many of them have no memory at all of their original homelands. Any some of them may be unaware that they are not U.S. citizens.
In 2012, President Obama signed an executive order creating a program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Under DACA, people who were brought to the U.S. as children and who are undocumented can seek deferred action protecting them from deportation. Those who qualify for DACA can also seek work authorization. DACA does not, however, confer legal status.
By the time this post is published election day will have come and gone. It was an election in which illegal immigration was a major issue, and the issue is unlikely to go away now that the votes are in. But, a recent study debunks one widely believed falsehood behind much of the campaign rhetoric -- the myth that illegal immigrants are taking jobs in the U.S. that would otherwise go to American citizens.
For many immigrants in Florida, there may be no greater fear than that of being deported. Deportation can mean separation from family and an involuntary return to a war- or crime-torn homeland. It means the end of a dream of building a new life in the United States.
For anyone wishing to travel to the United States, whether to settle permanently or for a visit, the first step is obtaining a U.S. visa. A visa is a legal document which allows a foreign national to travel to a U.S. port of entry. For most travelers this will be an airport in the U.S. For those entering the U.S. through Florida, several ports of entry are available.
Like other places in the U.S., over the last two years Florida has seen a surge in undocumented immigrants fleeing gang violence in Central America. The surge began in 2014 and is continuing. The Department of Homeland Security expects that the number of families from Central America entering the U.S. illegally this year will be higher than the number in 2014. Now the Obama administration is delaying the deportation proceedings of about 56,000 of these immigrants for several years.
When a U.S. immigration judge determines that an immigrant is deportable, a few avenues of relief are still available. Anyone facing removal proceedings in Florida needs to respond quickly, however, in order to avoid deportation.