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At Pelton + Balducci, we believe in the idea of the United States as a nation of immigrants, as a country that is enriched and strengthened by the presence and contributions of diverse communities. At the same time, however, our history has shown that immigrants are vulnerable. Our mission, therefore, is to be advocates and allies for immigrants, and support the effort to continue the rich tradition of immigrant contributions to the U.S.
On a more immediate level, we recognize how much is at stake in each immigration case. Being able to remain in the U.S. often determines whether or not our clients can remain with their families, continue their careers, or live in safety. We understand that these are high stakes, and we work hard to protect them.
Learn more about our practice areas and schedule a consultation to learn how we can help your case. Our entire team is fluent in Spanish, and we can work with a translator to help make your voice heard.
Many people believe that all it takes to immigrate to the United States is marriage to a U.S. citizen. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. In fact, immigration officers are trained to assess whether family relationships are real or solely established to “try to get a green card.” In certain circumstances, this scrutiny is higher than in others. The process is detail-oriented and can take a surprising amount of time. Simple mistakes can delay a case for months. Prior adverse immigration or criminal history can create the need for “inadmissibility waivers.”
It’s therefore imperative that family-based cases be carefully screened and that even “straightforward” cases be handled with attention and care. At P+B, we have decades of experience helping immigrant families stay together in a variety of circumstances, including marriage-based cases, family petitions by other relatives, cases related to children, widow petitions, self-petitions for survivors of domestic violence, and inadmissibility waivers.
The Windsor vs. U.S. decision that established marriage-equality for same-sex relationships also established immigration equality. At P+B, we are proud to support the LGBTQI community and to have LGBTQI team members. It is our privilege to serve LGBTQI families and to support their immigration needs.
Learn more about our family-based immigration legal services.
Consular processing is the term used when applying for permanent resident status abroad at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate, generally in the applicant’s home country. For individuals residing abroad, consular processing is the method either required or most appropriate to the situation. Consular processing or immigrant visas (i.e., permanent residence status) requires careful coordination between the intending immigrant, USCIS, the National Visa Center, and the Consulate.
There are specific very documentary requirements that must be adhered to, and the requirements vary by country. Failure to comply with these requirements can result in substantial delays in the processing of immigrant visa applications. Instances where individuals must leave the United States in order to apply for their status abroad must be screened especially carefully. If an individual leaves the United States but has problems in their background, such as criminal history or the accumulation of unlawful presence prior to the departure, they may be unable to re-enter the United States lawfully without a waiver, or they may be permanently barred from lawfully re-entering the United States. Such an outcome could be catastrophic. We have decades of experience handling consular cases. We will review your facts and background to determine whether or not consular processing is required, and possible in a particular case.
Certain acts, even noncriminal ones, can result in “bars to admissibility” (i.e., ineligibility to enter the United States). Common “inadmissibility bars” include departing from the U.S. after acquiring more than 180 days of unlawful presence; departing from the U.S. after acquiring one year or more of unlawful presence; departures following removal orders; failure to show up for an immigration court hearing; fraud; and criminal issues. In some instances, “inadmissibility waivers” are available that will lead the government to forgive the prior violation and waive the bar to re-entry. Inadmissibility waivers generally require that you demonstrate extreme hardship to certain family members specified by law. Preparation of such waivers of inadmissibility is document-intensive and requires extensive documentation of very personal matters that form the basis of hardship to the relevant family member(s). Our office is compassionate, discreet and thorough in handling waiver cases, and we have been very successful, including winning complicated cases that had been previously denied.
Today’s changing political landscape can create turmoil and stress for young individuals, commonly known as DREAMers, many of whom have been granted deferred action under DACA. At P+B, we work hard to stay abreast of the quickly changing developments in the DACA program. On September 5, 2017, the government announced that DACA would be phased out; however, subsequent court orders required the government to continue accepting DACA renewals. In April 2018, the DC District Court ordered the government to begin accepting initial DACA applications, but the judge stayed the decision for 90 days. The deadline is July 23, 2018, so a final decision on whether USCIS will accept initial applications for DACA is imminent.
DACA provides work authorization and important protections against deportation, including for those who have final removal orders, but are otherwise eligible for the program. The status of DACA is quite fluid, and it is therefore recommended that individuals with questions about their DACA status consult with an experienced immigration lawyer. To learn more about eligibility for DACA or your current status under the law, contact our team.
We understand that Immigration Court is stressful for our clients. The very real possibility of being deported or removed by the U.S. government can understandably induce significant anxiety and fear for individuals going through this process. The consequences of deportation are often severe. In order to prevail, “respondents” (those individuals the government has put into Immigration Court proceedings) must either show that they should not be there in the first place (e.g., by proving they are citizens or are in some other type of lawful status) or that they qualify for a defense to removal.
Possible defenses in Immigration Court include different types of applications for permanent residence (e.g., adjustment of status, cancellation of removal); protections if you fear harm in your home country (e.g., asylum, withholding of removal, protection under the Convention Against Torture); as well as certain applications for status such as U Visa for crime victim or Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), which are filed with USCIS while a respondent’s case is pending in Immigration Court.
Our experienced attorneys assist our clients in determining what type of relief from removal they are eligible for and work hard to provide zealous representation in each client’s defense against removal. At times, this means pursuing multiple forms of relief simultaneously. In addition to victories in Immigration Court, we have enjoyed successes in complicated cases at the appellate level as well.
You and your immediate family may be eligible to apply for asylum in the United States if you are facing persecution in your home country due to your race, political opinion, religion, nationality, or membership within a particular social group. If you are currently in the U.S. and fear persecution in your home country, our team can also help you apply for withholding and protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). This is an area that has seen important developments in recent months, and our attorneys are current with developments in the areas of asylum and related forms of protection from persecution (i.e., withholding of removal and protection under the Convention Against Torture).
All individuals deserve protection from violence, trafficking, and other criminal activity, regardless of their immigration status. Thankfully, the United States provides special protections for immigrant victims of criminal activity, including domestic violence. These protections are designed to encourage immigrants to come out of the shadows and to report their victimization, without the fear of deportation—a threat that abusers often use to control their victims. If you are a victim of a serious crime, our attorneys can help you determine whether you are eligible for these important benefits.
The P+B team is proud to have helped immigrant victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, rape, trafficking, and other forms of violence to obtain legal immigration status. Additionally, we have obtained law enforcement certifications for crimes such as obstruction of justice and intimidation of a witness, which also form the basis of eligibility for a U Visa. These benefits have been truly life-changing for our clients, and it has been a privilege to support these courageous survivors as they work to rebuild their lives.
For any individual who is not a U.S. citizen, a criminal arrest or conviction may affect not only one’s ability to obtain legal immigration status, but also exposure to possible detention and/or removal from the United States. If you have been arrested or charged with a crime as a noncitizen in this country, you still have rights, including the right to a criminal defense attorney. It is essential that your criminal defense counsel is aware of your immigration status and understands the possible consequences of any pleas. Although our office does not offer direct criminal defense representation, we are available to work together with your criminal defense attorney in an effort to minimize the potential for negative immigration consequences in your case. Contact our team to learn how we can help you.
The process of applying for U.S. citizenship via naturalization is, for many, the final step in the U.S. immigration journey. There are many benefits to becoming a U.S. citizen. Specifically, U.S. citizens may petition for a broader array of family members to immigrate to the United States, such as parents and siblings, than green card holders. Additionally, petitions filed by U.S. citizen petitioners for their family members are generally adjudicated more quickly than petitions filed by lawful permanent residents. Further, U.S. citizens may vote in elections in the United States and run for most public offices. U.S. citizens are also protected from removal from the United States, with few exceptions. Becoming a U.S. citizen frequently facilitates international travel and provides for access to Federal jobs and other government benefits. These are just some of the advantages to becoming a U.S. citizen.
The attorneys at P+B are equipped to help you understand your eligibility and the requirements for becoming a U.S. citizen and represent you through the process.
In the United States, you may be granted temporary protected status if you are from countries designated by the U.S. government for this benefit. Countries affected by armed conflict or natural disasters have historically been common reasons for TPS designations. An individual granted TPS is protected from removal from the United States and is eligible for employment authorization throughout the duration of the program. However, there is currently no path to lawful permanent resident status available for TPS holders, absent an independent form of relief. If you are worried about your status due to recent terminations to TPS designated countries, please call our team at (504) 708-5400 to learn more about your rights and options.
U.S. citizens who have a fiancé residing abroad may use a K-1 Fiancé Petition to request that their fiancé come to the United States for the purpose of marriage, and then apply for lawful resident status. In order to qualify, the U.S. citizen petitioner must have previously met their fiancé in person within the past two years and fully intend to marry their fiancé within 90 days of the fiancé’s admission to the United States. Upon approval of the K-1 Petition by USCIS, the fiancé will attend a consular interview to apply for the K-1 Visa. At both the USCIS and the consular stages of the process, the K-1 couple must submit evidence of their relationship and their future intention to marry. The fiancé will then travel to the United States, marry the petitioner within 90 days and submit an application for adjustment of status with USCIS. While the adjustment of status application is pending, the applicant is eligible for employment authorization.
Pelton + Balducci routinely handles appeals of Immigration Judge decisions to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). Appeals can be extremely important, because they preserve one’s case, keep an order of removal from becoming final, and afford an opportunity to address directly an Immigration Judge’s rationale underlying the order of removal. It’s important to have skilled counsel knowledgeable enough to point out the defects in an Immigration Judge’s decision. Our team has successfully appealed numerous cases, including cases involving serious allegations against our clients.