First of all, a warning. THERE IS NO IMMIGRATION REFORM YET. When people talk about "immigration reform" they usually mean a "pathway to citizenship" for the millions of people living in the United States without status. Actually, as we blogged about last month, it's more than that.
It's a way to be fair to everybody. The people who've been waiting, and the people who just want to get the chance to wait. It's to stop ripping up families, separating children from parents, husbands from wives. It's about recognizing the intrinsic value an immigrant provides to a society like ours, whether their papers are in order or not. It's about maintaining a competitive edge, and not investing in talent only to export it.
Deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA) was a great first step. Provisional (stateside) waivers - the new Form I-601A - was a great second step. But compared to what we need - comprehensive immigration reform - these are baby steps.
We want to remind people that there are things you can do right now.
- First: get right with all your taxes. If you owe taxes, get on a payment plan with the IRS. Visit the IRS website here and apply. If you haven't paid taxes, start now. If you don't know where to begin, see a tax professional. Our law firm recently opened a tax service where we do all types of tax returns, and because we are immigration lawyers as well, we know how to help.
- Second: learn English. It appears that if there is immigration reform, one of the proposed requirements with which no one quibbles is to learn English. So it's a good bet that reform will include this requirement. And learning English might take time. So start now. Many neighborhood resource centers offer free or low-cost English classes. And the State of New York announced today it will join other states and cities and open a new office to provide services to immigrants, including English classes.
- Third: collect all documents from the entire time you've been in the United States. Old receipts from money transfers back home, pictures, paycheck stubs, bank statements, pieces of mail, lease agreements, bus tickets, old emails...anything and everything. Don't throw anything out. You never know what a good lawyer will be able to use to prove your presence in the United States - something else which may well be a requirement if there is immigration reform.
- Fourth: consult with a lawyer and make sure there are no problems in your history. Some people are not aware they were placed in removal proceedings and ordered removed. Others think they had their criminal case dismissed, but do not know that sometimes a dismissal can be a conviction under immigration law. If there are problems, it's best you deal with them now.