In conversations with immigration advocates and agencies that may have contact with undocumented residents, it has become clear that immigration issues are very complex. In fact this is one area of the law where "self help" is discouraged, for if court or immigration paperwork is filed improperly, you run the risk of bringing attention to yourself or to those you are trying to help. The filing of improperly prepared documents could actually result in deportation.
It is strongly advised that in all issues related to undocumented workers, green cards, naturalization and immigration you obtain the services of an attorney familiar and competent in immigration law (especially as immigration reform works its way through Congress and into law). To begin this search, you might contact the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
Before hiring an attorney, check him or her out. Talk with friends and relatives and make sure this person is licensed to practice law in Nevada. You can find that out by going to the Nevada Bar website. The telephone number is (702) 382-2200. Once you contact an attorney, ask about his or her success in getting legal residency for their clients by asking what percentage (or numbers) of former clients are now legal residents of the U.S.
If you are in the country without authorization, there are potential risks that may confront you. If you are taken advantage of, the unethical attorney, or person posing as one, knows you might not contact the police for fear of deportation.
An agency that provides easy-to-understand information is the Immigrant Resource Center in San Francisco, California. They have published Living in the United States: A Guide for Immigrant Youth. A few of the helpful hints found in this guide are listed below:
Things Every Undocumented Youth Should Know
- Stay out of trouble with the law. In some places, police will hand your name over to immigration authorities. In many places, the police will not do that but if you commit a crime, it will make it harder to get legal status in the future.
- Don't cross the border. Once you leave the country, you can't legally re-enter the U.S.
- If you are working illegally, you should still pay taxes. This will improve your chances of getting legal papers in the future.
- If you're male, register for the "Selective Service" when you turn 18. The immigration police will not see your information. Like paying taxes, this will make it easier to get legal papers in the future.
- Having a child will not help you become legal. Some people believe this, but it is not true.
- Do not lie and say you are a U.S. citizen when you are not. This could hurt your chances of ever getting a green card or get you deported.
In addition to the tips above, A Guide For Immigrant Youth also provides the following advice for youth with Lawful Permanent Residence (LPR) status. A lawful permanent resident card is also known as a green card. These helpful hints are in addition to those listed above.
Things Every Youth With a Green Card Should Know
- If you change your address, tell the immigration authorities immediately. You need to do this within 10 days of the move.
- You need to get a new green card every 10 years. Your status doesn't change, but you need to replace the card. Look at your green card to find its expiration date. You also must renew your green card at the age of 14 whether or not it has been 10 years.
- To travel outside the United States you need a passport from your home country. If you later become a U.S. citizen then you can use a U.S. passport.
- Don't leave the country for long periods. If you are gone for six months you might have complications, and if it's for more than a year, you might not be able to re-enter the United States. If you have a good reason to be gone for a long time, you can ask for permission. You need to do this before the trip if possible.
- Apply for U.S. citizenship when you are eligible.
You can get lots of detailed information anonymously on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website, which also has all of the information in Spanish. Another resource that provides information about benefits available to immigrants is the National Immigration Law Center.
If your parents are deported, call Foster Kinship, a nonprofit agency, at (702) 546-9988. They can provide a referral to a center that may be able to provide services.