IMPORTA's most important legal service is cproviding in-depth consultations with immigrants who are desperately seeking a means of becoming legal.
Every undocumented immigrant--no matter how long he or she has lived in the United States, no matter how well he or she understands American culture, speaks fluent English, has a good job, is a good parent and a good neighbor--that person lives in fear of arrest by ICE and deportation.
Deportation means loss of a good income, separation from spouse and children (who often are U.S. citizens) and exile to a changed country the immigrant may not have visited for decades.
The desperate hope for a path to legalization makes undocumented immigrants easy prey for incompetent practitioners and outright criminal scams. It is our challenge to tell many of these immigrants the truth--that due to our broken immigration system, they have no path to legalization.
When we inform an immigrant that there appears to be no path top legalization, we always recommend that they receive a second opinion from an honest, experienced immigration attorney. This is not merely common sense (like getting a second medical opinion after a diagnosis) but helps ensure that the immigrant does not fall victim to someone who promises the impossible--for a multi-thousand dollar fee.
In the past this was important mainly because a denied application resulted in the loss of thousands of dollars of hard-earned income occasionally with the even worse consequence of deportation or a bar to future applications.
Now, however, deportation after an application is denied is official USCIS policy, making absolutely essential to warn even immigrants who do have a path to legalization to carefully assess the probability of success before proceeding.
Unlike criminal law where clients are already in danger of incarcerration or immigrants who have been sent to immigration court, most undocumented immigrants have lived and worked in the United States for many years and will be able to continue doing so despite the ever present possibility of arrest and deportation. Consultations are not just about seeing if an immigrant might have a possibile path to legality but are really about the immigrant's entire situation, including whether he or she might be targeted by ICE due to a past criminal conviction or deportation or other immigration offense, whether he or she should worry about accepting a welfare benefit for a family member, whether a legal resident should travel abroad, and if so, what precautions should be taken, etc.
Consultations for Persons in Removal Proceedings: IMPORTA also offers consulations for family members of persons in removal proceedings who have been locked up in an ICE detention facility (such as the "High Desert Detention Center" in Adelanto to the east of Los Angeles). Most defenses in immigration court involve successfully qualifying for one of the same "benefits" (a path to a green card) that we regularly handle for undocumented clients not in immigration court. The same analysis that can lead to a successful application for an immigrant out of immigration court (called an "affirmative" application) can lead to a duccess defense in immigration court. Although we do not represent clients in immigration court we have filed winning applications that have resulted in persons in court being released and provided with a green card.
We have also advised persons that they have almost no chance of beating deportation and that they should make sure that they only confer with a top-quality lawyer who is very experience in immigration court work befoe spending a lot of money hiring a lawyer for a hopeless case.
Although a minority, many immigrants do have a path to legality or a protected status--although now filing the application that begins the process is far more dangerous than it was a few years ago. To date we have had nearly 100% success, but to maintain that record we are now being especially cautitious in recommending that our clients proceed with applications.