Two weeks ago, Vice President Biden said that he hopes that “Congress will show the wisdom to pass the bipartisan immigration bill by the end of the summer. They must, and I'm optimistic.” Like Vice President Biden, we are also anxious to see Congress pass immigration reform as soon as possible.
For the last two weeks, the Senate Judiciary Committee, the committee in charge of drafting and sending the immigration bill to the Senate floor, has been reviewing proposed amendments to the immigration bill. The process they are engaging in is known as a “mark-up,” a formal legislation revision process. Once the Judiciary Committee has finished reviewing and voting on the amendments, and after it approves the bill by unanimous consent, the committee will send the bill to the Senate floor for a vote.
The House, unfortunately, is a few steps behind the Senate. House negotiators only just reached a deal on their bipartisan immigration bill on May 16th. They hope to release their bill in early June. Once they release their bill, the House Judiciary Committee will go through the same amendment process that the Senate is now engaging in. After their amendment process is finished, the committee will vote on whether to place the bill on the House floor for a vote.
If both the House and the Senate are able to muster the votes to pass immigration reform legislation, House and Senate leaders can then participate in a formal conference committee during which the two houses will attempt to resolve legislative differences between the two versions of the bill. Once the bill is agreed to and signed by the leader of each house, the bill will then go to the President for his approval or veto. Then and only then will we finally be able to celebrate.
As you can see, there are many steps and potential obstacles to passing immigration reform legislation. However, despite the long wait ahead, we finally see a light at the end of the tunnel and will be ready to celebrate with our clients when the time comes!
Carly Stadum-Liang, Esq.
Family unification has long been the foundation of the U.S. legal immigration system. This reflects our American values of keeping families united and strong. The HMA Law Firm
therefore applauds the Senate's efforts to decrease the backlogs in the family-based immigration system. Current backlogs
keep U.S. citizen parents apart from their adult children for, on average, about seven years, and brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens apart for about 12 years. The bill proposes to eliminate, over 10 years, a backlog of 4.7 million immigrants who have been been waiting for their green cards based on their relationship to U.S. citizen relatives.
However, here at The HMA Law Firm
, we are concerned with the bill's proposal to eliminate the family-based visa category for siblings of U.S. citizens. The purpose of eliminating this category is to free up additional green card for other categories, including employment based green cards. The Senators proposing this legislation evidently think that the U.S. cannot increase employment-based immigration without decreasing family-based immigration. However, this is a wrong-headed notion, based on the faulty assumption that the U.S. can only absorb a fixed number of immigrants at a given time, even though, as history suggests, our nation's demand for immigrants is constantly in flux. Further the bill's writers seemed to have forgotten that family-based immigration supports the goals of employment-based immigration. Research
shows that “close family relationships facilitate entrepreneurship because family members can support in caring for children and working in family-based businesses.” Getting rid of the sibling visa category will reduce the amount of family support that U.S. citizen entrepreneurs need to successfully run their businesses.
The Senators working on the Senate immigration bill, called the “gang-of-eight,” do not need to make this false choice between increasing employment-based immigration or supporting continued family-based immigration. Instead, they can increase skilled, employment-based immigration, while at the same time maintaining the same family-based sibling category that has been proven to spur on entrepreneurship in immigrant communities. We hope that as the Senate Judiciary Committee
continues to make changes to its immigration bill, it will restore the sibling family based immigration category. It must do so to uphold our American values of fairness and inclusion. Carly Stadum-Liang, Esq.
I attended the All In For Citizenship rally - the so-called "April 10 Movement" last week on the National Mall in Washington, DC.
Thousands of people attended. As a practicing immigration lawyer, it was a welcome and long-overdue recharge. Those who are against reform - or those who are just against immigrants - frequently talk in terms of laws, numbers and jobs. The citizenship rally was a stark reminder that the issue of immigration reform is an inescapably human
issue. And yes, that means it involves the civil
rights of human beings
. It's an important way to frame the debate over immigration policy. As I've blogged about before
, words like "illegal alien" or "criminal alien" shape perceptions of immigrants who came here illegally or fell out of status, because they dehumanize.
Slavery was justified not only Scripturally, but legally. The law simply did not recognize the relationships of the slave family, because the members of that family were not human. Likewise other shameful traditions, such as denying women's suffrage, or segregation, were justified by appeals to (interpretations of) religion, culture, economics...anything to take away the human face of the civil right violation. It's hard not to see the immigration restrictionists in the same vein.
I overheard Roy Beck, a representative of NumbersUSA, a restrictionist organization, speak
to the BBC. He, too, framed the debate in terms of the economic cost of undocumented people (specifically, jobs he said Americans were losing) and rather contemptuously nodded to "all this talk about rights." I was struck not only by the contempt he showed for these "rights" - but also the assumption that his economic data trumped them.
Leaving aside the fact that accurate statistics for such a complex issue are going to be hard to come by - the rally reminded me of the human face of the immigrant rights movement. That's an enormous boon for someone who works in the broken system day in and day out. I was interviewed
by PressTV and part of my frustration at the current system stems from the fact that immigrant rights are
civil rights, and the violation of a civil right is morally wrong.
Here is a small gallery
of photos I took at the rally.
On April 10, the HMA Law Firm founder Hassan Ahmad will join thousands on the Mall in Washington, DC to take part in the "All In For Citizenship" rally planned by nearly 50 immigrant rights groups.
This is a timely rally, and an important opportunity to show the need for immigration reform. As we've blogged about before
, the restrictionist vocabulary ("illegal alien," "anchor baby" and "criminal alien") has served to dehumanize immigrants by lumping them together and labeling them "criminals" or somehow inherently "illegal."
The Citizenship Rally is a time to show the real faces of immigrants. And they are human
faces. It's time to fix this broken system and stop defending it in the name of the law.
They said the same thing about slavery, suffrage, and "separate but equal." Didn't make it fair. Didn't make it right.
Attorney Hassan Ahmad will be on the Morning Show (Pedro Biaggi En La Mañana
) on El Zol 107.9 FM the at 9 am to talk about the Citizenship Rally scheduled for 3:30 pm tomorrow, April 10, 2013.
This past weekend, an Obama Administration official leaked a partial draft of a White House immigration proposal. It is just a draft, it is not complete, it is not yet law, but it still gives us an idea of what the White House is thinking about immigration reform. So far the White House has been relatively silent, supporting bipartisan efforts on immigration reform in Congress from the sidelines. However, the White House has finally spoken up and we like what they have proposed. This is what the White House plan includes:
Creation of a new “lawful prospective immigrant visa”
In order to provide a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., the White House proposes creating a “lawful prospective immigrant” visa, similar to the visa proposed by the Senate group working on immigration reform. The White House version of the visa would allow immigrants to reside legally in the U.S. for four years. After the four years are up, they could reapply for an extension. During that time they would be allowed to leave the country to travel for short periods of time. After eight years, immigrants could apply for a green card, if they have learned English and about the history and government of the U.S, and have paid their back taxes. After they receive a green card, they would be on the path to U.S. Citizenship.
Proposed requirements to qualify for “lawful prospective immigrant” visa:
To apply for the new visa, immigrants would have to pass a criminal background check, fill out an application, and pay fees to qualify for the proposed visa. They would be disqualified if they were convicted of a crime that involved a sentence of at least one year, three or more crimes that resulted in 90 or more days in jail, or if they committed an offense abroad that if committed in the United States would make them inadmissible or removal from the United States.
Immigrants in federal custody or facing deportation proceedings would be allowed to apply for the Lawful Prospective Immigrant visa.
In addition to providing lawful status to undocumented immigrants, the plan would also provide more border security funding and also expand the E-verify program to require business owners to check the immigration status of newly hired employees.
White House Proposal Offers a Clearer Path to Citizenship that the Current Senate Proposal:
The White House plan offers a much clearer path to citizenship than the current Senate proposal. The White House plan would place immigrants on the path to citizenship by allowing them to apply for a green card within 8 years after obtaining their provisional visa. This is in sharp contrast to the Senators' proposed plan. While the Senators' plan would provide people with a provisional visa, it would not allow people to apply for a green card and start on a path to citizenship until the border is deemed to be “secure.” We have no idea when that will be or how we will decide when the border is secure. As Hassan noted in the blawg on Monday, when reporters asked Senator McCain, one of the members of the Senate group, how we will know when the border is finally secure, he said, "I'll know it when I see it." His response was no help to immigrants looking for a definite timeline for when they can apply for a green card.
If the Senators' proposal becomes law, and immigrants are forced to wait to apply for a green card without knowing when or even if they will ever be able to apply for one, immigration reform will fail. It will fail because the uncertainty the Senators' plan contains will not provide the security immigrants need to become full participants in our society. The plan will instead create a second tier society where immigrants with provisional visas will have different rights than the rest of Americans for a long, unknown period of time. We don't want this.
Instead, we want to see something along the lines of the White House plan, where immigrants can be sure that within a definite time-frame, within a certain number of years, they will be able to become permanent residents, and then citizens.
Only when Congress passes a bill that provides a definite path to citizenship, free of amorphous requirements to “secure the border” first, only then will we achieve the Senators' and the Presidents' goal of fixing our broken immigration system and bringing undocumented immigrants into full participation in American society.
USA Today article which first reported the leaked plan:
Carly Stadum-Liang, Esq.
I never understood this nonsense about "secure the borders first." According to some lawmakers, there should be no path to citizenship (which really means no reform) until we know the border is secure.
I agree that border security is important. I also agree that the border should be secured. But how will we know when it is? On January 28, 2013, McCain simply told reporters, "I'll know it when I see it
." Come on.
Second, as a practicing immigration lawyer - what seems to be missing from the secure-first crowd's argument is that securing the border - however you define it - is related to immigration reform. Inextricably related. You can't do one without the other. In fact, you will secure the border by
passing meaningful reform. Here's how.
If reform is passed and people have a means to immigrate legally, most folks who would have paid a coyote at least $3000 per person (usually closer to $5000) to cross the border, risking getting shot by cartels and gang members, or dying of thirst or hunger, will certainly have much less an incentive to EWI (enter without inspection.) That means less people crossing the border. To the extent a "secure border" means stopping people from EWI-ing - that means it will be easier to make the border more secure.
What about folks who want to flout the law and enter illegally anyway? The fact that the border is more secure means that the would-be lawbreakers will know that there is a much higher chance they will be caught. That further chills illegal immigration, which makes the border that much more secure.
Trying to secure it first while we have a broken system is like trying to run up the down escalator. You're going to expend countless resources chasing an illusory goal, working against the flow and moreover, you'll never really know when you're there.
If the secure-the-border crowd was really serious about securing the border, they would come out enthusiastically for immigration reform.
There must be something other reason they're not.
Or at least, that's about as bumper-sticker short as I can make my point.
First, a disclaimer: I am decidedly pro-immigration. My background and profession play on each other, strengthening my resolve to fight for the rights of those who have come here from elsewhere.
As a lawyer who focuses much of my practice in matters of US immigration, I pay close attention to the words and labels used to frame arguments in the immigration debate.
Here is my list of labels that divide, obfuscate, and malign:
- Illegal immigrant/Illegals
- Criminal alien
- Anchor baby
Let's look at each one.Illegal Immigrant
. There's currently a debate going on among journalists as to how to describe the population of people living in a country in violation of that country's immigration laws. You've got folks on one end who call them "illegal immigrants" (or just plain "illegals.") Others prefer "unauthorized immigrants" or "unauthorized workers." Still others prefer "undocumented workers."
Technically (and legally) an "immigrant" is a person who is lawfully
admitted for permanent residence
. That is, a lawful green card holder. Since the vast majority of the population we're talking about do not have green cards, it's somewhat of a misnomer to even call them "immigrants." However, it's not realistic to expect people to understand the legal difference between immigrants and nonimmigrants as defined in the Immigration & Nationality Act. Moreover, "immigrant" could also connote anyone who attempts to enter the United States with an intent to make the United States their permanent home (i.e.,
has "immigrant intent.") Colloquially, though a bit inaccurate as a matter of law, the word "immigrant" denotes someone who comes into a country not his own.
The problem is with the word "illegal." As cliché as it sounds - a human being is never illegal (ningún ser humano es ilegal). Actions can be legal or illegal. We can speak of illegal immigration, but not illegal immigrants, any more than we can speak of driving illegally, but not illegal drivers.
But there is a deeper problem with labeling a person "illegal." It makes it sound unrectifiable. We hear the refrain from the right many times: "What part of illegal don't you understand?" To which my response is, "You clearly do not understand what the word illegal means." Calling a person illegal dehumanizes them. That leads to arrogance, enmity, racism, exclusion, and if left unchecked, genocide.
Even worse is calling people simply "illegal" as if the simple act of walking across a border forever taints every action that person henceforth takes. Very few of us would be "legal" if we adopt this understanding.
Some argue that "undocumented" is a euphemism. To a certain extent, this may be true, but only because its meaning has been subtly shifted by the pro-immigrant crowd. Perhaps, then, the best term is "unauthorized" - a word that signifies that the law that was broken was a regulatory offense, and not something necessarily indicative of bad moral character.Criminal Alien
. The problem with this term is that it is far too general. Under our immigration law, a "criminal alien" is any alien who commits a crime. However, that crime could be anything from a traffic offense to a trafficking offense. It all depends on who is using the term. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) invariably refuses to release any "criminal aliens" from custody, whether they are guilty of driving without a license or guilty of sexually abusing a minor. Our criminal law differentiates between categories of crime, and recognizes that the word "crime" can cover mere regulatory offenses (such as speeding) all the way to the most heinous acts imaginable.
When we call an alien a "criminal alien" we use an overly general adjective to describe them. And the word "criminal" is a very heavy word. It makes the person marginalized, regardless the magnitude of his offense. Are we really certain we want to treat the father of four who drove to work without a license the same as the MS-13 gang member who raped a teenage girl? Is it fair or accurate to call them both "criminal aliens?"
If our criminal law distinguishes between violations, misdemeanors, and felonies, and our immigration law also distinguishes between different categories of crimes (albeit differently) then our discourse should, as well. Criminal alien lumps people together who share few common characteristics, and thereby enables all of them to be seen as the same. It's like assuming all Asians speak the same language.Anchor Baby
. If people really knew how hard it would be for an unauthorized immigrant to secure legal status merely by having a child on US soil, they would abandon this silly term. First of all, although a baby born on US soil is a US citizen, that US citizen cannot sponsor their parent until they turn 21 years of age. Even then, the parent must obtain an immigrant visa from their home country, and cannot apply for it from within the US. Once they leave, if they have spent more than 1 year in unlawful status in the US, they are further barred from re-entering the US for 10 additional years. So it will take any parent at least 21 years, and possibly as much as 31 years, before they can obtain lawful status simply by having a child on US soil. There's instant gratification, there's delayed gratification, and there's this.
To hear some people tell it, a toddler can fill out an I-130 petition for an alien relative and the parent can sit comfortably in the US and wait for their green card to come in the mail, all the while sucking up welfare, food stamps, and any other government money they can get their hands on. Nothing could be further from the truth. The law simply doesn't work this way.
Critics usually respond with a) some aliens can apply for cancellation of removal for non-permanent residents (COR) if they have US citizen children, b) pregnant mothers can get government benefits like WIC.
Neither of these responses justifies the use of the term "anchor baby." As far as COR is concerned, see our Blawg post
about how easy it is to obtain. And as for short-term benefits - if a pregnant mother illegally crosses the border to obtain higher quality medical care or temporary government benefits, then it's incorrect to say she is coming for the purpose of having a US citizen child. It is clearly an abuse of the system, but to call the child an "anchor baby" belies the purpose of the abuse, and therefore does little to solve the problem. Instead, it creates a imaginary problem, which of course can have no solution. Its only purpose is to malign and denigrate, create an underclass, and incite patterns of racial hatred and enmity.
We need to understand that labels are merely linguistic convenience, a shorthand to convey complex thoughts that resist succinct definition. If we fail to appreciate the lexical limits of a label, we limit our own thinking. And we become easily lured by those who create labels for their own political ends.
Look at the facts, and remember that there is always an exception to the rule.
No, you should not.
Many of the deferred action (DACA) clients who've come to see us have expressed fear that if Obama loses the election in November, President Romney will revoke their deferred action work permits.
Many people are in fact waiting to file.
There is scarcely a month left before we will know who the next President of the United States is. But if you haven't filed already, you might be throwing away a good opportunity.
On Monday, October 1, 2012 Republican presidential hopeful Governor Romney told The Denver Post
that he would not revoke the deferred action work permits for those who had already received the benefits. "The people who have received the special visa that the president has put in place, which is a two-year visa, should expect that the visa would continue to be valid. I'm not going to take something that they've purchased," said Governor Romney. "Before those visas have expired we will have the full immigration reform plan that I've proposed."Update: 10/3/2012
: Romney flip-flopped. In an interview with The Boston Globe
, the Romney campaign clarified that President Romney would honor deportation exemptions issued by the Obama administration before his inauguration but would not grant new ones after taking office. Romney once again takes a shot at the DREAMers.That means you have until January 20, 2013 to get your deferred action work permit. It takes at least 3 months to get it. That means you should file now. If you wait, and Romney wins, and your case is still pending after he takes office, your case will be denied.
If Obama wins, few people are worried about the program. If Romney wins, he will revoke DACA (deferred action.) But he can only do so after he actually takes the oath of inauguration and becomes President, and only for people who have not actually received their deferred action decisions as of the date he becomes President. That will not happen until January 20 next year.
So if you qualify, you need to obtain it before Romney would be sworn in. That means if you are eligible, you need to file. And you need to file NOW.
It is all the more important to get the right help, because if you don't, you might draw a nasty Request for Evidence, which will delay your case. If Romney wins, and you haven't gotten your approval by January 20, 2013, you will lose out.
We continue to file dozens of DACA cases and are ready to advise you in your situation. Call us or text us at (703) 964-0245 and visit our Deferred Action page
. We can quickly tell you not only whether you qualify, but what documents you need to get as quickly as possible so you can file.
It's been two weeks since the program opened. We have helped dozens of people prepare and file their applications. Some of the cases were simple. Most were not. Your case might not be as simple as you thought, either. Here are the top 5 issues that have come up:
1. I bought a social security number. (Or I used a friend's number. Or I made up my own SSN.) What should I put on the forms?
Answer: There is no clear answer. But there is a best choice. Sometimes that choice is not to file at all. Other times it's to wait and see. Other times it's to disclose your fake SSN. What's right for you depends on your case as a whole: your immigration history, positive things about your case, negative things about your case, prior removal orders, family, length of time in the US...the list goes on. If you've used a fake SSN (whether you got it yourself or not) you need to talk to a lawyer to see how to handle it.
Stay tuned for an upcoming blawg post about this issue: "Deferred Action And Fake SSN's."
2. I came to the US under 16, but I don't have proof of when I came in since I didn't start school under after I turned 16.
Answer: I always tell people it's impossible to live in the US without leaving a paper trail. Somebody sent you mail. Or tagged you on Facebook. Or took a picture of you. Or you made a call, bought something, or traveled somewhere.
One young woman came to our office with this problem. I asked her whether she had any photographs from 2004 or 2005, when she was 14 and 15 years old. She handed me 5 or 6 pictures. None of them had any dates on them. One was a picture of her and her niece standing before the Reflecting Pool with the Washington Monument in the background. So it was clearly in the United States. But how to date it?
Looking carefully in the picture I noticed a low white wall around the Monument. Having lived in the DC area for ten years, I've been to the Monument many times and hadn't seen that white wall. A quick Google search revealed that the Monument was closed for renovations between September 2004 and April 2005. During that time, a temporary construction wall was erected around the Monument. I asked the young woman whether she ever remembered getting close to the Monument, and she said no, because it was closed. She was dressed in fall clothes; it seemed the weather was warm but not hot. With some documentary evidence (a Washington Post article about the Monument's closure) and some affidavit evidence to fill in the gaps, we now have pretty strong proof of her physical presence in the US at least before April 2005.
My job as a lawyer is to help you find the evidence you didn't know you had.
3. I've been working and I can't remember what I put when my employer gave me a form I-9. I might have said I was a citizen.
This is a problem. People who check the wrong box on the I-9 and claim to be a citizen have committed a crime for which there is no fix. You could be placed in removal proceedings and deported. Therefore, for every case, we make sure to talk to our clients about what they might have put on an I-9. This week I talked to an employer for one of my clients to have their corporate office fax a copy of the client's I-9. Before you file, you need to know what's on your forms. This was one case I put the brakes on.
4. I got my birth certificate translated from a professional, and he notarized it, but the translation's not word for word. Is it ok?
Answer: No, you can do better. A lot of these "summary translations" of birth certificates only give the basic information: child's name, date of birth, parents' names, etc. But USCIS typically requires more. It is true that sometimes these summary birth certificate translations work, and USCIS will not question it.
But for DACA (deferred action) cases, I believe the birth certificate may be the most important document. This is because 3 of the requirements (your current age, your age at the time of entry, and your age at the time of application) are all controlled by the birth certificate. The problem with the summary translation is that it usually leaves out very important information: the name of the issuing authority. How is USCIS supposed to know, by looking at a summary translation, whether the birth certificate came from the official Registro Civil or from a hospital? A birth certificate needs to be from a government authority, and bear the name of a certifying individual.
Anyone who is fluent in the language (e.g., Spanish) and English can certify the translation. Notarization is not required. But the translation should be complete - palabra par palabra (word for word). You can go to a professional company, or you can have any person you know who is fluent in both languages certify on the bottom of the translation:
"I certify that I am fluent in the English and Spanish languages and the foregoing is a faithful and accurate translation of the original Spanish into English."
and then print and sign their name below.
5. I don't know all my past addresses, is this really important?
Answer: Yes. Do not be lazy. It is hard for many people to remember their addresses, and the application asks for all addresses you've ever had since coming to the US. We filed a case for a young man who had no less than 8 previous addresses. But yes, you have to try to remember. As best you can. Even if you stayed someplace for only a few months, you need to list it.
Why is it important? Well, that's one reason you need to be working with a lawyer. A lawyer will understand that USCIS (immigration) will check addresses with government databases to see if you are telling the truth. And more importantly, if you can't remember your addresses, they will doubt that you've been in the US for as long as you say you have. That means they will either deny your case, or send you a nasty Request for Evidence (RFE) to show proof of those old addresses and of your continuous physical presence in the US. And lastly, if you fail to disclose an address, then you haven't told the truth on your application forms. That's never a good idea.
You need to be working with a lawyer to make sure your application is not only approved, but is as strong as possible. If you're not, then at the very least, get your application reviewed by a lawyer. If you're not even doing that, you don't need to be filing a case at all.
It has been a busy week. Our firm has received dozens of calls and emails about the new deferred action policy. Here is the first round of frequently asked question (FAQ):
1. Is this the DREAM Act?
No, it is NOT the DREAM Act. Do not call it the DREAM Act, because if you do, you will confuse yourself. This is not an act, not a law. It is just a change in policy. That means it's something the government has decided it will do. They are agreeing not to deport people who meet certain qualifications. And allow them to file for a work permit good for two years and renewable.
2. I'm over 30 now. Do I qualify?
No, not under this policy. However, you should still talk to a lawyer. Depending on your situation, the government still might be willing to grant you deferred action. But only an experienced lawyer can say whether this is a good idea. If you try to do it yourself, you are playing with fire.
3. I didn't finish high school. Do I qualify?
See answer above. However - this is a great time to go get your GED. If you have a GED you can make yourself qualified. There is no deadline for filing (like there is for TPS) so as soon as you are qualified, you can file.
4. Can I file anything now?
No. Wait for the regulations to come out. We expect them in mid-August. We hope it will be sooner.
5. I walked across the border. How do I prove when I came in?
This is why you should not file without a lawyer. You only get one shot. If you are denied, you will wind up getting put into removal (deportation) proceedings. But proving entry means showing the earliest possible proof of your presence in the US. Your lawyer can explain how to do this.
6. I have a misdemeanor on my record, how can I tell whether this will be a "serious misdemeanor"? Will I qualify?
We do not know yet. Make sure you get the conviction records. Once the regulations come out, you should talk to a lawyer to see whether it will affect you or not.
7. I came here for the first time when I was under 16, but I left and came back. Do I qualify?
You have to have been in the US between 6/15/2007 and 6/15/2012. If you were out of the country during these dates, you might not qualify. However, we will not know for sure until the regulations come out. It may be that we can argue that a short trip does not break the continuity of presence.
8. What if I file and I don't qualify? What will happen?
The June 15 memorandum makes clear that the existing guidelines for NTA issuance are consistent with the new policy. This means that if you file and you don't qualify, you can (and probably will) be put into removal proceedings. So be careful and do not be impatient.
9. If I qualify, and I get deferred action, can the government change its mind and decide later to deport me?
Yes. It can. We hope that will not happen, of course, but it is a possibility.
10. Should I get a lawyer to help me file?
Yes. This is not the type of thing you want to do by yourself. The main reason is, you want to be sure it's right. Because if it is not, you will get put into removal proceedings. A good lawyer will help you think of additional evidence to strengthen your case. A good lawyer will be there to help you if the government asks for more evidence while your case is pending. And if it's denied, a good lawyer can help you explore other options.