On April 21, 2015 – a Harvard University graduate student, Rebekah Rodriguez-Lynn, published a column in the Los Angeles Daily News titled: “How U.S. immigration laws helped tear my family apart.”
Ms. Rodriguez-Lynn is a U.S. citizen and a resident of Southern California; she shares her story, beginning with her marriage to the love of her life, an undocumented Mexican citizen who had crossed over to the U.S. without authorization at age 17. They had a baby boy and they later moved to Cambridge, MA so she could attend a Harvard graduate program. She was living the American dream – except that her husband did not have the proper documents.
Wanting to legalize her husband’s immigration status, she eventually filed an Immigrant Petition – Form I-130 – for him that USCIS promptly approved a few months later. Following a routine process USCIS sent the case to the U.S. Consulate in Cuidad Juarez (CDJ), Mexico for final adjudication of the immigrant visa. After receiving a notice for a visa interview, the family travelled cross-country from MA to CA and down to CDJ. Her dream of living happily ever after with her family was suddenly shattered though when the visa officer informed her husband that he was subject to a lifetime bar due to his previous unauthorized entries to the U.S., a decision which they could not appeal. That bar has separated her family for over 10 years.
It is no secret that our immigration laws are broken beyond repair. On Twitter #RepealIIRAIRA should be trending! However, that is not the point of this blog.
For over 2 years, without any cause, the State Bar of California has been targeting immigration attorneys with allegations of fraud. State Rep. Lorena Gonzalez (D-SD) has made it her mission to “protect” immigrants from attorneys who she claims, without a shred of evidence, are systematically defrauding immigrant communities. She wants to regulate immigration attorneys more than any other lawyers in the State via AB 1159. The goal of the law is “to prevent unscrupulous practitioners from taking advantage of immigrants’ hopes and taking money for services they could not perform.”
Noble goal, but unfortunately, immigration attorneys are lumped together with notarios. Since notarios essentially practice law without a license, the State Bar does not have any sway over them. Perhaps realizing this fact, the State Bar of California released a goal-oriented outreach campaign which warned the public that per AB 1159 it is illegal for immigration lawyers and consultants to take money for services related to federal immigration reform until Congress acts.
When information like this is disseminated, through the State Bar or the offices of our legislators, it confuses people. If a Harvard graduate student made the mistake of not consulting with an immigration lawyer regarding her husband’s case, perhaps because she did not trust an attorney, then anyone could make the same mistake.
It is unconscionable for our public officials – including some members of Congress – not to acknowledge that immigration laws are some of the most unforgiving in our legal system. They should actively encourage their constituents to consult with qualified immigration attorneys if they have any immigration issues. Perhaps if they admit to the reality that our immigration laws are so complicated that only an immigration lawyer may make sense of them they will find the courage to finally fix the problem so families like Rebekah Rodriguez-Lynn’s aren’t separated for life. #RepealIIRAIRA.
Written by Ally Bolour, Member, AILA Media Advocacy Committee