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Pinellas: 727.564.9050
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Main Office: 5235 16th. Street North, St. Petersburg, FL 33703
Tampa Office: 2202 N. West Shore Blvd. Suite 200 | Tampa, FL 33607
Ft. Lauderdale Office: 110 E. Broward Blvd. Suite 1700 | Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33301

Faces of “Illegal” Immigrants

As an immigration lawyer I often hear, “Illegal immigrants should all leave. What is it about the word “illegal” that they don’t understand?” There seems to be a misconception that undocumented immigrants should be viewed as criminals. After all, they are breaking the law.

However, this narrow view of the immigration issue fails to take into consideration the many people who are here on our shores innocently. Who came here never intending to break the law and have no  home elsewhere to return. Unfortunately these situations are all too common and without significant immigration reform, innocent “illegals” remain in limbo without a path to citizenship.

I see these people regularly in my immigration practice. Here is an example of one situation that I have seen recently:

Manuel: Manuel came to the US from South America with his mother when he was 4 years old.  His mother married a US citizen and she had 2 other children in the U.S. who are US citizens by birth. Tragically, Manuel’s mother was killed by her husband who also committed suicide when Manuel was only 6.  The murder suicide occurred before Manuel’s mother got her citizenship and before he was adopted by his step-father.

After this tragedy, Manuel and his siblings became wards of the State and he lived in foster homes until adulthood. He was incorrectly told that he was a US citizen. After getting his driver’s license, he registered to vote and has voted in many elections since.  Today Manuel is in his 50s and has worked for the same grocery chain for over 20 years. He is married to a US citizen and has US citizen children.  Manuel does not speak any spanish, the language of the country of his birth nor has he visited that country since he was 4 years old.

It was not until Manuel and his wife decided to take a trip to Europe that he learned that he could not get a US passport since he was not a citizen.   Normally this would not be a problem because his wife is a US citizen. As an immediate relative, he is entitled to a green card and naturalization. However, when he applied for naturalization he honestly disclosed that he had voted while under the mistaken belief that he was a citizen and entitled to vote.  You can only imagine his shock when the application was denied due to “voter fraud”.  Manuel was actually looking at the possibility of being deported and separated from everyone he had ever known to a country where he did not even know the language.

Our firm challenged the government’s decision on the grounds that Manuel had a good faith reason to believe he was a citizen when he voted. Unfortunately, the draconian law of the US does not require intent or knowledge as a prerequisite to committing voter fraud.

We did help Manuel to some extent. We were able to get the government to agree not to put Manuel in removal proceedings. In addition, we will likely re-file the case once three years passes from the date Manuel last voted. We do plan to aggressively represent him until there is a happy ending.

I cannot help but wonder why it should be so difficult for people like our client to become citizens. Manuel is certainly an innocent “illegal”.  He contributed to our society in many respects including many hours of volunteer work through his church.  It makes no sense for Manuel to live in fear of deportation. Unfortunately, that is the situation for thousands, if not millions, of hard working people living in our country.   I encourage you to open your mind to immigration reform. Ultimately, it will help our country if these wonderful, hard working people, can realize their dreams.

If you are an "innocent illegal" contact the immigration lawyers at Tucker & Ludin. We can be reached either through this website or by phone. Contact us today so that we can work to remove the fear of deportation and help make your dream a reality.

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