By Attorney Jose Aponte
There have already been some significant changes to the Temporary Protected Status program during the Trump administration’s short tenure in office. Most people recognize that the time to take some action is upon us, but what kind of action should it be? The following are five suggestions to seriously consider:
1. Do not waste any time
The time for action is NOW! If you are not in possession of important documents you may need to request these documents from the federal government. That may require a Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) petition. This process may take several weeks, if not months, to receive the requested documents (assuming they are in the government’s possession). If you wait too long, you run the risk of becoming out-of-status and begin accumulating unlawful presence by the time you receive a response to your request.
2. Gather all your documents
For many folks who have been under TPS, for the last decade or two, documents important to their case may date back to the 1990’s or even before. It is important to gather as many of these documents you could possibly find. This step is crucial as you begin seeking legal representation. One of the first things your prospective attorney will ask to see are all the documents in your possession. These documents may inform your attorney the specific course or courses of action that may still be available to you.
3. Avoid any violations of Law
The last thing you want to have to confront, in addition to the end of the TPS designation for your country, is to also be dealing with an arrest, prosecution, and conviction for any crime.
4. Begin Preparing a Plan
a. Not everyone who currently has TPS will be able to remain lawfully in the United States. It is, therefore, very important that you begin developing plans for particular situations. If you have children, think about what living arrangement are you willing and able to make for them should you decide that they will remain in the United States. Some of these arrangements may require drafting special legal instruments, such as a Power-of-Attorney. You should consult with an experienced family law attorney to become informed about what are all your legal options. While this is certainly not an easy topic to consider, getting prepared and developing a plan will help you minimize, to the extent possible, your stress and worry should you be confronted with this reality.
5. Meet with an experienced Immigration Attorney
a. It is important that you have a consultation with an experienced immigration attorney. Avoid going to any “Notarios”, or someone who’s not an attorney who offers to fill out your papers. They will not have the same legal expertise and tools that an experienced immigration attorney will be able to offer you. An Immigration attorney should be able to discuss all of your legal options and allow you to make an informed decision.