Achieve Your Immigration Goals in The U.S. Trust your case to the honest & caring attorneys at Milla & Associates.

Reflections on Citizenship Pathways

June 1, 2013. A constant point of contention in the immigration reform debate has been whether or not legislators should include a pathway to citizenship. In the Senate Gang of 8's bill there are three proposed pathways for those in the U.S. without status, including for DREAMers, certain agricultural workers, and others. As of the writing of this article, the Senate bill has undergone the rigors of Senate Judiciary Committee hearings and mark-up, and it is en route to hit the floor where it will be subjected to more debate. It is expected that reform opponents will attack the citizenship provisions. Similarly, the House is planning to release its own immigration reform bill(s), spearheaded by another group of eight legislators. As in the Senate, the House expects to wrestle with the issue of citizenship pathways. Some reform opponents will seek to kill the bill if it provides a path, while some reform proponents will certainly refuse to support the bill if it fails to provide a path.

As the immigration reform debate has progressed, I have taken time to reflect on my own clients' varied paths to citizenship. Some were simple and straightforward, and for others, let's just say they had to take the long and scenic route.

Now in my seventh year practicing immigration law, I find myself at a very interesting point in my career. I have noticed in the past few months that many of my clients applying for naturalization were among my first cases as a new attorney. It is wonderful when clients who became permanent residents during my early days, return for that final prized stage in their immigration journey – citizenship. I really started seeing some of my “old clients” filing for naturalization in my fourth and fifth years. However, now I am seeing more of those “old clients” whose cases involved some trickier issues along the long and scenic route toward permanent residency, such as removal (deportation) proceedings, the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), federal court litigation, and waivers. Many of these cases marked the first times that I saw and handled such legal issues as a new immigration attorney. They proved great learning opportunities and helped shape me as an attorney and person. I am grateful to have played a positive role in my clients’ lives and to have been entrusted to handle their cases.

Recently, I was thrilled to sit next to one of my “old clients” as he passed his naturalization exam and received his naturalization oath ceremony. During the interview, I recalled sitting next to him years before in completely different circumstances - at counsel table in immigration court. He was in removal proceedings facing a charge that he should be deported because he did not comply with NSEERS registration requirements. NSEERS was implemented in 2002 in response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. It required certain individuals from select countries, believed to pose national security risks, to register at ports of entry and local immigration offices. Criticism of the program gained momentum and the controversial policy and results are well documented. The Department of Homeland Security eventually removed the designated countries from the NSEERS list in 2011, but at the time of my client's removal case he was charged with having willfully failed to register for NSEERS. While the NSEERS registration system is now inactive, it still remains a part of immigration law, and an allegation of willful failure to register when the program was active could cause immigration problems.

My client happened to be from one of the designated NSEERS countries, but he did not know of NSEERS registration. Since my client was married to a U.S. citizen, he was eligible to adjust to permanent resident status in immigration court. However, for my client to become a permanent resident, the immigration judge needed to determine that his failure to register was reasonably excusable or not willful. After hearing my client's testimony, the immigration judge granted him permanent resident status that day in court and the government waived appeal. Upon hearing the decision, my client was quick to smile, as had been characteristic of him throughout the process, despite the great stress he and his wife were under. He shook my hand firmly, and in doing so managed to express a measure of gratitude that far exceeded the simple gesture. His wife wept in the hall. Soon after, my client kindly insisted on treating me to an impromptu celebratory lunch with his wife, mother-in-law, and stepdaughter.

A few years later, we were again sitting shoulder-to-shoulder, again a smile on his face. Again we would shake hands. However, this time in his other hand was a naturalization oath ceremony notice. He was just days away from becoming a U.S. citizen and celebrating again with his wife.

This is just one of my clients’ success stories, and fortunately beyond them there are thousands of others across the country who have a story to share that ends happily. I hope that with time I will only add more successful immigration stories, although I am well aware that not every case can end with a smile. Sometimes the laws and the facts are just stacked against you. That is why it is important to savor the wins and use them as fuel for the next case, the next person who walks through the door who may need your help. If some immigration reform materializes in the near future, those doors will open wider and provide opportunities to those who have forged strong ties to family and community despite living in the shadows. Hopefully they too will eventually be allowed to travel their own pathways to citizenship.

*Originally published in asiatimes.us June 2013.

If you have NSEERS or other immigration questions, call Robert C. Milla for a free consultation.

  • Excellent Service, Highly recommended.

    “Result: Change of status from visitor to student approved Robert is a skilled lawyer, he has helped me in filing the change of status from visitors visa to student visa. I strongly recommend him for all immigration matters. He is very kind, humble and down to earth and helping.”

    Uvais

  • Thank you Mr. Robert for helping us to build American Dream.

    “I am very happy with the professionalism and constant follow up with my case. Mr. Robert is a great attorney who helped me a lot to achive my permanent residency and citizenship. All the communication and Coordination were very easy and convenient through email and phone. Thank you Mr. Robert for helping us to build American Dream.”

    Sarker

  • Thank you so much

    “I thank God for put Robert on my way. I had a complicated VAWA case due to domestic violence (DV), I had others immigration attorneys opinions where they did not give me much hopes because my short marriage. I got Robert's information from a DV organization, got a free consultation and with not doubt I hired him. He is an excellent attorney, knows what he is doing and how to put your case on the right path. As I mentioned my case was complicated and with God's help, Robert's made it easier. My DV case was approved with no inconvenience and got my interview 6 months after my approval, he prepared me one week before my interview and got me ready for the best and the worst scenario. Thank God in my interview I got approved on the spot and after a week I got my green card. Another important thing is that he is affordable, he has a huge heart and always answered my questions when I had any. I also want to thank his receptionist Sylvia, she was so kind and assisted me during my process after my assistant Maria was gone. If you need an attorney with experience, very reasonable price but with quality and compassion then Robert is the one you need.”

    Anonymous

  • Robert is an outstanding immigration lawyer

    “Robert is an outstanding immigration lawyer and I would recommend him to absolutely anybody that is looking for a trustworthy and responsible service.”

    Camelia

  • Rest assured, Robert will be my choice!

    “I was recommended to Mr. Milla by a friend of mine who used him for her permanent residency application as well. Both my husband were touched by the fact that Robert took the time to get to know us during our first meeting with him, before we began the application process. Rest assured, Robert will be my choice as I go to apply for my citizenship in the next few years!”

    Surabhi

  • Amazing lawyer

    “I have had the best experience hiring Robert milla he has an amazing knowledge, experience and dedication he was passionate on representing us as his own family. Very professional and honorable i would truly recommend anyone who needs help and guidance to give Robert milla a call you will not regret your decision”

    Delacruz family

  • Excellent immigration lawyer!

    “I hired attorney Robert Milla to file for my papers here in Chicago. I waited for over 20 years to apply for my green card. Overall, the service was outstanding. He took the time to answer all my questions, he was honest about what to expect and there were no hidden charges for his services. I paid one flat fee for his services and I did not have to pay everything upfront. I recommend him for immigration services and I have recommended one friend and my cousin and they both had the same experience that I did. Result: Application for adjustment of status to permanent resident (“green card”) approved”

    Paulo

  • Very satisfied and grateful!

    “After a long and difficult journey for my niece to obtain American Citizenship, from delay to denial, a big sigh of relief finally came for my whole family when her case/application got approved. Robert is intelligent . He is skilled, very knowledgeable of immigration laws, helpful and truly honest attorney . We are very satisfied and grateful to Milla and Associates law firm . I would definitely recommend Robert Milla and his firm .”

    Victor

  • Would have been lost without them!

    “Fantastic firm and most notably my wonderful attorney Justin Hoefflicker. He was clear and easy to understand, helpful and able to think outside the box to answer our questions and various what if scenarios. We would have been lost without him deciphering the response letters from the USCIS. Thank you Justin!”

    Amber Carser

  • The best layer in Chicago!

    “No words can describe what Robert Milla did for me! My case was complicated and before I found Robert I went from door to door …. getting more and more frustrating and hopeless! Most of the law firm gave me no chance!Others asked way more money then Robert …with really low posibility of wining! He was not only knowledgeable, professional, but also very approachable making the whole process much less stressful. Dealing with legal issues could be super nerve-racking, and I was very glad that Robert helped me with understanding my situation and evaluating all the options in the easiest way possible. I knew I was in good hands. Before Robert I had a really bad expirienc with some other attorney which not cost me a lot but also worsened my situation !Thats why you really should do your resurce on finding a good lawyer you can trust ! Robert Milla is 100% one of them ! I definitely recommend Robert Milla to anyone who needs legal assistance regarding immigration law. Robert You saved my LIFE! I can’t THANK YOU enough!”

    Patrycja M.