Immigration impacts during COVID-19 pandemic

Published: May. 11, 2020 at 4:40 PM PDT
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U.S Citizenship & Immigration Services has temporarily suspended in-person interviews and court hearings, all to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Immigration Attorney Cristina Hughes said this leaves people with many unanswered questions about their status.

"We do have a lot of clients in limbo as far as what's happening next and when they'll see movement on their case," said Hughes.

This includes seasonal migrant workers who normally would appear at the consulate and DACA recipients who came here as young children.

"The Supreme Court is expect to make a decision about the future of DACA and that will be coming up in the next month or so," explained Hughes. "We're really encouraging our clients to make sure their DACA is renewed so they have their work permit for 2 more years and to pursue any avenue that's available for them to become a permanent resident."

Hughes said while interviews are waived, those awaiting entry to the United States face another issue.

"The Presidential Proclamation suspended immigration for 60 days," added Hughes. "There are exceptions to that but in general, there won't be a lot of people coming in."

However, if you're already in the United States on a tourist visa or in a visa waiver program, there is a 30 day extension.

Hughes said despite the flexibility it's important to show due diligence.

"Because what we don't want are people leaving to their home country and in a few years when they want to come back they have issues, because their record shows they overstayed," said Hughes.

The pathway to a permanent stay is an expensive and lengthy process, with many mixed status families relying on a stimulus check for relief during their wait but instead get nothing.

"Imagine this, you're a U.S. citizen, you have U.S citizen children and your spouse is in the process, but not there yet. The whole family is excluded from receiving a stimulus check which is devastating when everyone is struggling," said Hughes.

Hughes explained only those with social security numbers are qualified to receive a check, even though immigrants with an (ITIN) individual taxpayer identification number pay taxes.

"Right now with the way the relief act is set up, it's not possible to receive the stimulus benefit," added Hughes. "There is litigation taking place right now, so families can get relief. Contact your immigration attorney, your tax preparer, these professionals who have been answering these questions to give you guidance."

With these trying times, Hughes said she wants to provide as much comfort and answers for her clients, who are relying on residency and citizenship for a better life.

"That's why it's so urgent people reach out no matter what stage of the immigration process they're in to see what they can do to move their case forward," said Hughes.

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