Guatemalan Immigrant’s Successful Survival From A Nearly Disastrous Misunderstanding
Linda, an immigrant from Guatemala, entered the U.S. without inspection in the late 1980s. She brought her daughter, Susan, age 2, with her.
A few years after her arrival, Linda married. She gave birth to three children born in the United States. She was now divorced. A single parent, she supported her family selling foods on construction sites.
Her ex-husband did not file papers for them. Linda and Susan remained without legal immigration status. Susan was an honor student, nearing the 12th grade. Linda wanted her to be able to attend college, but she did not have any pathway to permanent residency.
One day, Linda learned about a new immigration program. She moved forward quickly to take advantage.
Thinking it was like amnesty, Linda believed qualifying for a green card would be easy. She thought there were only two requirements for success. She had lived in the United States for ten years. She had not committed any crimes.
That’s when Linda made a tragic mistake.
Linda went to the immigration office to file papers. She thought this was the first step towards getting a green card.
She did not understand the new laws were not amnesty. The new laws were changes making it harder, not easier, to win legal status. Linda’s mistake meant she requested a hearing at Immigration Court.
Linda had put herself and Susan in immigration court proceedings.
At the first hearing, Linda realized the government was seeking to deport them.
She learned her only chance at winning would depend on proving hardship – exceptional and extremely unusual hardship – to her three U.S. children.
If she lost, she faced removal from the country. Even worse, the Judge said Susan had no basis for immigration hardship.
Needing a Riverside immigration attorney to defend them, Linda consulted with Carlos.
Carlos held nothing back. Carlos told Linda that both she and her daughter had a rough road ahead. Their cases, he informed her, required a great deal of ingenuity and creativity. And their cases would be two separate cases.
Carlos would have to try some entirely new legal arguments. As an immigration trial lawyer, he knew the case was heading for uncharted territory.
To win, Linda would have to challenge the government’s interpretation of the new law.
He explained that even if our office did everything right, she and her daughter could still lose. Or that one could win, and the other could lose. Knowing the risks, Linda decided to hire Carlos.
As predicted, the road was bumpy. Linda’s case went first.
Linda lost at the Immigration Court hearing. Because the law was new, Linda understood the possibility of a negative ruling. She also knew Carlos had laid out issues he intended to use for an appeal at the BIA (Board of Immigration Appeals).
And in the appeal to the higher court, they formed the basis to challenge the judge’s reasoning about the new law.
About a year later, Linda won her appeal.
Her case was now sent back to the immigration court for a new trial. This time, the judge was required to consider the issues raised by Carlos.
This time, Linda won. She had earned her green card the hard way.
While Linda’s immigration appeals was pending, her daughter lost her deportation trial. Again, Carlos had prepared for the worst in advance.
He knew, like her mother’s case, Susan’s hopes of overcoming deportation and removal were slim.
Likewise, her case depended on winning another favorable immigration appeals decision. Carlos had to convince the higher court that the same immigration judge was wrong for a second time.
A few months after Linda’s case ended, the BIA issued its second verdict. Susan won her deportation appeal.
The family’s ordeal was not yet over. Like her mother, Susan had to return to immigration court for a new trial.
Things had gone good . . . so far.
Carlos had to put his deportation trial attorney hat back on and face the same judge once more.
Terrified, Susan and her mother worked with Carlos to get ready for the next round.
If Susan lost, Linda was not sure what she would do.
On the one hand, if she left with Susan, she had no family members to take care of her three younger children. On the other, if she stayed with them, how could Susan survive alone in a country she had seen since she was two years old?
Linda was spared that excruciating choice.
Susan was successful. She, too, won her deportation trial.
Both mother and daughter won the privilege of lawful permanent resident status.
They had survived the nearly disastrous mistake made by Linda.
Today, Susan is a college junior, earning high grades. Linda found a better job and earned her U.S. citizenship. With better wages, she was able to save money and buy a house in Riverside County for her and her four children.
No matter how difficult the road ahead may seem, immigrants should not give up without exploring all options. This series is dedicated to those who refuse to stop believing that some day, somehow, victory will be theirs.
To read more stories of immigrant success in different types of cases, facing different types of obstacles, follow this link: A Four State Odyssey Through The Immigration Jail System
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