As 2014 came to a close I attended an important adjustment of status interview for a client I first met in 2011. The interview went well and she is now a permanent resident.
But back in 2011 it was a different story. Sure, she was married to a United States Citizen, but she was brought to the United States illegally as a small child, and her only hope of obtaining papers was to go back to her country of origin, apply for a waiver and wait for a decision, a process that could take up to a year. For someone with no memories of her native country, that was a daunting proposition.
As time went by small changes began to happen. There was Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in 2012, followed by provisional waivers. She and her family finally benefited from some changes to the Military Parole in Place program in late 2013. Recent announcements regarding DAPA will extend to the client’s parents, and beyond.
Cases like these provide an excellent opportunity to stop and reflect on how far we’ve come. The laws remain fundamentally broken and unfair, to be sure. Immigration Courts are facing unprecedented backlogs, families continue to be separated, and legal pathways often present arbitrary and cruel limitations. Nevertheless, for this one particular client, and for thousands more like her, the last three years represents the difference between nothing, and a pathway to Citizenship.
There is a cloud that follows undocumented individuals here in the United States, a fear and uncertainty about their future, the sense that their families could be torn apart at any moment. The most rewarding part of this job by far is watching what happens when that cloud dissipates. There’s a new found confidence, a bounce in the step that wasn’t there before. Here’s hoping that in 2015 we continue to baby-step our way towards true humanitarian solutions in our immigration debate.