Marriage used to be a trusted way to gain legal residency in the U.S. As long as you could prove your marriage was legitimate, you were free to stay. However, in the wake of the current administration’s push to oust illegal immigrants, marriage is no longer the safe route to legal residency that it once was.
Under the previous administration, an undocumented immigrant entering into a good-faith marriage with an American citizen could reliably achieve legal status—even if the immigrant had previous, unenforced deportation orders. The undocumented immigrant and their spouse would attend a marriage interview with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If the interviewing officials determined the marriage to be legitimate, the immigrant would generally be given the green light to pursue a green card.
However, since the beginning of 2017, there has been an increased push to eliminate all illegal immigrants from the country. Immigrant arrests have increased by 40 percent since the current administration came into power.
The once routine USCIS marriage interviews are now becoming a veritable booby trap to target undocumented immigrants who are attempting to follow the straight and narrow path toward citizenship. There has been a disturbing spike in arrests at marriage interviews recently. Here’s how it plays out:
A well-meaning immigrant and their spouse attend a marriage interview, presenting all of the necessary documentation to demonstrate the legitimacy of their relationship. The USCIS officer approves the immigrant to advance to the next step of legalization. In the next instant, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officer arrests the immigrant on the spot—in some cases detaining them for weeks or months, in other cases deporting them.
As a result of these fear-inducing conditions, many immigrants who are likely eligible for legal status are delaying their applications out of fear. Some immigration attorneys are even advising their clients against attending such interviews—even if it means that they continue to reside with the uncertainty of an illegal status.
If you’re concerned about your security as an undocumented immigrant in the U.S., it’s important to consult with an experienced immigration attorney for legal guidance.