It used to be the case that if someone living in the U.S. who was born in another country married a U.S. citizen, he or she could remain here legally. That's why the government has always taken great pains to make sure that these marriages are legitimate and not just for a green card. Our readers who are old enough may remember the 1990 film "Green Card," which had an interesting twist on that premise.
However, with the Trump administration placing a priority on locating and removing unauthorized immigrants, a legitimate marriage is no guarantee of being able to remain in the country. People with deportation orders that were never enforced are finding themselves being arrested and deported, even if they're married to American citizens.
The Obama administration chose to focus on deporting immigrants convicted of serious crimes and those who had just arrived rather than going after people who'd been in the country for years, built a life and family and had no criminal record -- even if they weren't in the country legally. Immigration officials were allowed to lift old deportation orders once they determined that a marriage to a U.S. citizen was legitimate.
Many of these immigrants were allowed to remain as long as they regularly checked in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials. Now, people are being arrested when they appear for those appointments. They're also being arrested and deported when they appear for marriage interviews.
One immigration attorney, whose firm has had five clients arrested when they came in for these interviews and two deported, says that "you end up with a situation where, all right, you don't go to the interview, you don't get the petition approved, so there's no way forward."
Officials say that they are simply taking action that wasn't taken due to what they claim was a laxity in enforcing the law. Immigration arrests have increased by over 40 percent since President Trump took office.
If you or someone you love is concerned about potential deportation, it can seem like there are no good options, even if you're trying to take the steps necessary to gain legal residency. An experienced Maryland immigration attorney can provide valuable guidance.
Source: The New York Times, "A Marriage Used to Prevent Deportation. Not Anymore.," Vivian Yee, April 19, 2018