One of the biggest challenges when helping a client navigate the immigration process is knowing their complete history. Someone’s prior education, addresses, employment or family histories are all necessary when applying for an immigration process, but more important than this information is a person’s history of previous entries (legal or illegal) into the US or whether an individual was previously removed, deported or just turned away at the border. This history is often the deciding factor in obtaining an approval to a request for immigration or as to whether someone should even file for a process since the existence of a prior deportation, illegal entry or a “bar” might make someone vulnerable to arrest by ICE and deportation.
What is a “bar” exactly? Under immigration law, the term is called a “bar to admissibility” and there are two main bars that affect immigrants; three and ten year bars for unlawful presence in the United States. These penalize people who stay too long in “unlawful status” in the US and are triggered when they leave the country (voluntarily or through deportation) and then try to enter the US again. Problems can get even worse for an immigrant if they have a bar in place, leave the US and then return before the end of the bar period. If this happens, a 3 year bar can turn into 10 years, 20 years or even a permanent bar.
For example, if someone lived in the US without permission for six months or more and was later deported, they have an underlying 3 or 10 year bar for that “crime” as well as an automatic 10 year bar for their deportation. If they have been deported more than once during the 10 year period, they would then have a 20 year or permanent bar attached to their original 10 year bar. This is why many good immigration attorneys will attempt to get permission for their client to leave under voluntary departure (VD) instead of a deportation. VD does not have a penalty as with normal deportations. The person may still have a problem with the underlying 3 or 10 year bars, but will not have the deportation bar in addition. Although many bars can be removed through various waiver processes, they are not easy to obtain and depend on the eligibility of the legal permanent resident or US citizen family remaining behind.
I have had many clients come to me asking for help with their papers over the years and many of them had no idea that they were previously deported. As I asked for more details, they would say that they were just stopped at the border, had their fingerprints taken and were then returned to Mexico. They though this meant they were ok. In reality, most of the time this is considered a deportation and heir re-entry into the US violated their deportation and the bar they had in place. Without knowing this critical information, it is very risky filing for any immigration process. How do you truly know if you have a deportation order on your record or if there are any bar against you? The only real way to know for sure is to do a records request from the government. Although most records requests take six months or more to get the results, it is well worth the wait to be able to do things the right way.