February 28, 2019

Why having an Immigration Attorney is Important Right Now

By Anish Parikh
Founding Partner of Parikh Law Group

Having an attorney who is well experienced and versed in the tricky nuances of immigration law may be more important now than ever before to the outcome of your immigration case. Since the Trump administration officially took office in 2017, there has been an apparent change in the climate and laws affecting U.S. citizenship, permanent residency, and various Visa categories across the board. From a decrease in the number of annual visas accepted and approved annually, to specific rule changes and additional evidence requirements making it more difficult to meet requisite thresholds, proving your case to lawfully reside or immigrate to the United States has become increasingly more difficult over the last 2 years. Additionally, slower processing of applications due to increased RFEs (Requests for Evidence) by USCIS has created years-long backlogs of cases awaiting final disposition. The level of increased scrutiny is expected to grow as the federal government is now directly faced with addressing the challenge of increased border security and focus on American workers’ jobs. As indicated by the recent government shutdown that stretched 35 days and continued negotiations demonstrating contention in bipartisan politics, it is obvious that complacency with the current system will not be an option. The immigration lawyers at PLG have recognized this trend for quite some time and have made it our utmost priority to stay apprised of changes in immigration laws and the overall climate surrounding our clients’ USCIS applications. We inform our clients of how these changes may affect their individual cases and procced accordingly on an individual case basis. The most important aspect of working as an immigration attorney is not only apprising ourselves of new regulations and trends but translating this knowledge into our actual work to ensure our clients have the best chances possible to obtain favorable outcomes on their immigration matters.

For example, for asylum cases, in order to qualify for asylum, the person seeking it must demonstrate a well-founded fear of persecution based upon the individual’s political opinions, religion, nationality, race, or membership within a specific group. Proving that the fear is well founded, real, and that the person could be persecuted if they return to their homeland is often challenging. Traditionally there were several minimum thresholds to meet, such as proving membership to a specific targeted group and that the persecution is from the person’s home government or a group which the home government is unable to control, such as a guerilla group or criminal organization. However, recent changes in U.S. immigration laws have led to increased scrutiny in consideration of asylum cases from certain countries where an individual alleges to have been persecuted by members of a drug organization or cartel. In an effort to shift responsibility to foreign governments to increase control over their own crime and drug organizations, the United States has taken a hard-lined position that we cannot automatically grant asylum to individuals from certain countries where there has been substantial evidence showing foreign government corruption, inside ties, and acquiescence towards organized crime and drugs is prevalent. Additionally, there has been a call for increased review of individual applications for asylum to ensure that the applicant is being truthful, has not themselves partaken in illegal crime or drug-related activities, and does not have past or present ties to any organized crime or drug groups. As part of the increased review, the United States has departed from its traditional handling of asylum claims. Where it previously used to grant stay to asylum seekers and their families, allowing them to remain in the United States while their case was decided by an immigration judge, the U.S. government is now accepting applications but turning migrants back into Mexico through ports of entry while their claim is pending. Recently on January 29, 2019, the United States sent back a Honduran man seeking asylum under the new U.S. policy dubbed the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), a policy aimed at curbing the increasing number of families arriving from Central American countries who are requesting asylum. There is currently a backlog of more than 800,000 asylum cases pending with the USCIS.

Due to the number of years it takes for an asylum case to commence review and the level of increased attention given to each application, when filing for asylum it is imperative that we work diligently to cover all bases and provide ample evidence to support our clients’ claims so that their application is not rejected. This attention to specific details is the product of years of experience of handling such cases. One of the other biggest reasons we urge immigration clients to utilize the services of a knowledgeable attorney is because of their knowledge and experience in navigating often unfavorable territory. Moreover, experienced attorneys have access to several professional resources, such as expert witnesses. A good immigration attorney will readily have a roster of renown expert witnesses who can provide powerful testimony and support to help their clients win their cases. Immigration courts often consider the testimony of an expert witness with strong credentials and legitimate knowledge to justify a ruling, which can be of immeasurable benefit to the successful outcome of a case.

Another example of where having an experienced immigration attorney is of utmost importance is in the situation of appeals, motions to reopen, and motions to reconsider the denial of an application by USCIS. In most of these cases, the decision to allow an appeal, to reopen a matter, or to reconsider a ruling will be based upon a written request. This means that the chances of a previous decision being appealed or reconsidered will rest upon the writing ability of the person filing the paperwork, and their ability to convey the need for an appeal or reversal of a ruling in the most compelling way possible. Failing to adequately articulate why an error was made or why additional information should be considered could result in affirmation of the previous decision and the matter being closed. If an individual receives notice of a denied application, their chances to file a request to an appeal or motion to reopen or reconsider are limited and finite. As such, the need to hire an immigration attorney who can better outline to the court that an error was made or explain why new evidence should be considered becomes unquestionable.

In conclusion, while individuals are certainly allowed to file their own applications and represent themselves in immigration court, this comes with an almost certain risk of putting themselves at a significant disadvantage from the get-go. Attorneys who regularly handle immigration matters are familiar with the rules and ways to best present their client’s case with the most compelling and legally relevant details highlighted. Further, because there is often a language barrier, many important details risk becoming lost or misunderstood in translation, both in writing and during in-person interviews. Having the assistance of an attorney for both filings and in-person proceedings will prove to be invaluable in the end. The attorneys at Parikh Law Group are committed to helping our clients achieve the best results for their immigration matters and are involved in every step of the way. Please call us at (312) 725-3476 for a consultation and quote today.