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 consultation.

  • Best immigration Lawyer

    “Robert is very knowledgeable, kind & approachable as well as his staff. From Sylvia to Daniel, they’re always very nice in answering all my concerns. I had no trouble with my USCIS interview because their team made sure that me & my husband were prepared. Robert was highly recommended to me by a Lawyer i know. I’m glad i took her advice and went to seek Roberts assistance regarding my marriage based green card. Got my approval the same day after the interview. I will be getting his assistance with all my immigration concerns including my childrens petition. I highly recommend Robert! He’s the best! 😊👍🏻”

    Jen

  • Great Team!

    “Robert and his assistant Maria have done a great job for my marriage based green card application. The case went smoothly and got approved easily. Thank You!”

    Anonymous

  • Great Lawyer!

    “I needed help with a complicated immigration case for my family (parents-in-law and myself). Robert was very knowledgeable, culturally sensitive and courteous. He is very easy to deal with and seems to be a great person overall. I definitely recommend him to anyone who is seeking help with obtaining a green card.”

    Anonymous

  • He was honest about what to expect & there were no hidden ...

    “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. 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.”

    Paulo

  • They were very succinct and punctual with our case, and we felt well prepared for our interview with USCIS.

    “Robert Milla and his legal assistants are always spot on! They were very succinct and punctual with our case, and we felt well prepared for our interview with USCIS. Everything went great, and my husband received his conditional green card without issue.”

    A. P.

  • Excellent Service Better Attorney

    “Robert made sure I understood everything that was going on ad answered all my questions to the best of his knowledge. Before going to Robert for my immigration status, I looked around but other attorneys were not nearly as insightful or helpful as Robert. Robert always made sure that I was prepared for everything that I was going to through. For the interview he prepared me so well that I was not nervous when talking to the officers. Robert made sure I was aware of all the possible outcomes when I acquired his services. Robert made sure that I had the best experience possible for the trials that I was going to face with the immigration process. Result: Form I-751 Petition with waiver of joint filing (good faith marriage that ended in divorce) approved”

    Anubis

  • 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 doesn't quite cover it. - Exceptional, trustworthy ...

    “Result: DACA and employment authorization granted First let me start by saying THANK YOU doesn't quite cover it. Robert is an exceptional attorney! He pays attention to the details. We received no further request for evidence, & it was all over in 2 months. He made us feel very comfortable with the entire process and I was not as intimidated, as I had been in the past with other lawyers that I had worked with. He was always responsive by email or phone and kept us well-informed. Which helped manage any anxiety we might have otherwise had. For the first time in my 26 years in this country I have some normality to my life! With DACA secured, next I look forward to working with Robert on our marriage case and becoming a permanent resident! I know I can trust Robert to guide us through whatever is needed. I highly recommend Robert Milla to any one seeking an immigration attorney. I plan on passing his name along to any family, or friends who may need his services in the future! Thank you Robert!”

    Janeth

  • We are very thankful for having met Robert and his team.

    “I first met Robert several years ago when I needed help navigating the immigration process of an application. Since then, my family and friends have gone to Robert and his team for guidance and representation. Robert has always been honest, professional and reliable. His team is very knowledgeable and are always up-to-date on immigration laws. They made us feel welcome and guided us every set of the way. We are very thankful for having met Robert and his team.”

    G. M.

  • The best legal group I've ever had the pleasure of working with in my life.

    “Justin Hoefflicker and his team went above and beyond to help us every step of the way. We are a small digital health startup, and without Justin, our company would potentially not be able to continue operations. He helped us secure an H1B visa for our Technical Co-Founder, and went above and beyond through preparation of materials, explaining the process, answering a million follow-up questions (that's an understatement), taking the time to meet and discuss contingencies when he absolutely didn't have to, helping us file a complete Request-for-Evidence (RFE) and not charging us for the additional work, and ultimately, helping us secure the H1B in the end. Even if we hadn't gotten the H1B, I'd still be submitting this review as it's fully merited and Milla & Associates is by far the best legal group I've ever worked with. They're honest, they actually care, they do great legal work at appropriate rates, they actually follow through, they get everything done on time, and they go above and beyond to make sure expectations are set correctly in what can be a very difficult and touchy legal-sphere (immigration). I am extremely grateful for having had the opportunity to work with them, and I wish we had a similar experience with every legal group we had to work with. Thank you Justin and team.”

    Rob Castellanos