Preparing for Biden’s proposed immigration reforms

IN a previous article, I wrote on how Joe Biden has been declared the winner of the 2020 presidential election, and has proposed sweeping changes and reforms to our immigration laws and policies, including possible amnesty for Dreamers and/or the approximate 11 million other undocumented immigrants in the U.S. Although these changes and reforms are not yet in effect, people could already start preparing for these immigration changes by gathering vital documents and clarifying their immigration status, situation, and options.

If there is an amnesty, there will likely be a surge or rush to apply. That is why I’m suggesting that you already start preparing.

The following are some documents I believe would be necessary to gather. I based this on past amnesties, executive actions, and documents required for several other immigration benefits. I want to clarify that this is not an “official” list of required documents, as no immigration reform has yet been implemented. It is simply a guide to give you a head start once such reforms hopefully are implemented:

1. Your current, unexpired passport, and the passport you originally entered the U.S. on.

2. Entry documents, such as your entry visa and I-94. If you entered the U.S. under a different/assumed name, that would still be considered an “entry.”

3. Identity documents, including your birth certificate, state I.D. or driver’s license. If you have U.S. citizen children, their U.S. birth certificates or proof of immigration status.

4. Docs showing your continuous presence in the U.S. from the date you arrived until the present. Previous amnesties required people to demonstrate they were in the U.S. before a certain date, and remained in the U.S. continuously since then. There are lists of the types of documents USCIS would accept to document your continuous presence in the U.S.

5. Documents on your U.S. immigration history, including all petitions filed for you, applications, other filings, denials, records of any deportation/removal proceedings, etc. It is important to obtain these documents, to determine and evaluate a person’s current immigration status and to determine if any of the reforms or proposals could apply to them. If the person no longer has their records (they threw them out, moved and lost track of them, etc.), there are ways to obtain their complete immigration file from DHS.

6. Documents relating to any criminal matters. Were you ever charged, arrested, tried, or pled guilty to any crime? It’s important to determine what those crimes were and the effect they would have on a person’s immigration status and eligibility. Sometimes, a conviction for a particular crime would make a person ineligible for immigration benefits, even if there are reforms or amnesties. Sometimes it’s possible to go back to state court and have the criminal matter or sentence modified to lessen the immigration consequences.

These documents are useful not only in connection with possible future immigration reforms and changes, but are important when applying for current immigration benefits as well. At my office, we treat clients as though they were patients about to go into surgery: The surgeon would want to see the patient’s medical history, take x-rays, and run other tests before giving treatment. In the same way, a person should not just blindly file for immigration benefits without first considering their immigration status, history, and eligibility.

That’s why a person should already consult with an attorney in preparation for possible reforms (just like a person might go to a doctor for a “checkup” in connection with a possible future surgery). It doesn’t mean you’re going to be “operated on” right now, just like you would not be filing right now. But it is best to already gather appropriate documents and determine eligibility and possible issues/problems in your case in preparation for these reforms.

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Michael J. Gurfinkel has been an attorney for over 35 years and is licensed, and an active member of the State Bars of California and New York. All immigration services are provided by, or under the supervision of, an active member of the State Bar of California. Each case is different, and results may depend on the facts of the particular case. The information and opinions contained herein (including testimonials, “Success Stories,” endorsements and re-enactments) are of a general nature, and are not intended to apply to any particular case, and do not constitute a prediction, warranty, guarantee or legal advice regarding the outcome of your legal matter. No attorney-client relationship is, or shall be, established with any reader.

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