Top 5 Misconceptions About Immigration Law

It seems like every day brings another story of a new immigration law or policy, increased deportation efforts, or, yes, a wall. And with all that news can come quite a bit of misinformation. So, how do you separate fact from fiction when it comes to immigration law?

Here are some of the most common misconceptions about U.S. immigration and naturalization law and policy, and where you can go for the truth.

1. I Can Be a U.S. Citizen as Soon as I Marry One

While U.S. citizenship is family-based and can provide an expedited path to citizenship for family members of citizens, it's not quite automatic. New spouses of U.S. citizens must be eligible for citizenship themselves, apply for naturalization, and complete the interview and citizenship test. And bringing a spouse to live in the United States can also be complicated. Be aware that immigration officials are especially suspicious of weddings for the sake of citizenship. Committing marriage fraud has serious legal consequences.

2. I Can Get a Green Card as Long as I Have a Job

In most cases, it works the other way around: you will need an immigrant visa for permanent legal residency (also known as a "green card") in order to live and work in the United States. Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, other family members of citizens and permanent residents, and workers whose skills are needed in the American job market are eligible for green cards, so in some cases an employer may sponsor your green card.

3. I Will Be Deported If I'm Charged With a Crime

While criminal convictions can affect your immigration status, merely being charged with a criminal offense is often not enough to get you deported and exactly how convictions will affect your status will depend on your immigration status and the crime. For unlawful residents in the United States, any criminal conviction (or even an arrest) can get you deported. While lawful permanent residents will generally only be deported if they are convicted of aggravated felonies or a crime of moral turpitude, such as theft or fraud. Be aware that, in terms of immigration law, a guilty plea often has the same effect as a conviction.

4. The President Can Make Any Immigration Laws He Wants

It is true that the executive branch is given wide latitude when creating immigration policy, but the president can't enact and enforce new immigration laws whenever he or she wants. While presidents may direct immigration, border, and national security enforcement agencies (and their enforcement policies), Congress has the sole authority to pass immigration legislation and the courts can review any administrative policies to make sure they are constitutional.

5. I Can Get Deported for No Reason

Based on news reports of ICE enforcement, it may seem that immigrants are being deported for any reason or no reason at all. Usually, however, that's not the case. While immigration officials may initiate removal proceedings for anyone in the country in violation of national immigration laws, or certain state or local laws, you can't be deported without reason if you are in the country legally. And if someone threatens to call ICE or have you deported, you have legal options.

Contact a local immigration attorney for help with your case.

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