Mistakes to Avoid as an Immigrant Living in the U.S.

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Immigrants should be extra cautious when taking advice about their immigration cases. Even people who want to help you and who have your best interest at heart, may not know the law well enough to advise what is best for your situation. Although speaking with a licensed attorney isn’t always affordable or accessible to everyone, it is ultimately the safest option for seeking advice about the immigration process. Here are a few mistakes to avoid that could cost you your residency or citizenship:

Many immigrants have been advised to be dishonest about their identity in order to keep themselves safe or anonymous, but this could lead to the unwanted consequence of being denied citizenship or worse. 

How to reduce risk:

  • Do not go by a fake name and birthdate or present documents of another person: this could jeopardize your immigration process in multiple ways:
    • This could be considered two crimes: crime of false claim of being a U.S. citizen or identity theft 
    • This could eliminate evidence of you ever living in the U.S. (you will eventually have to provide proof of continued physical presence in the U.S.) 
    • If you use false information on the birth certificate of your child, they will never be able to petition for you 
  • Do not lie to the authorities: this does not mean to give away unnecessary or false information that could put you in jeopardy. In most situations, you will have to provide at least your name, but you DO NOT have to answer any questions about your status. Just like anyone else, you still have the right to remain silent, deny a search without a warrant, and have the right to consult a lawyer. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has resources for immigrants to know their rights when it comes to encounters with law enforcement. Click HERE for spanish. 
  • Do not commit any crimes: possession of illegal substances, possession of weapons, speeding while driving and other infractions may jeopardize your immigration case.
  • Do not rely solely on advice from people who are not licensed attorneys: it’s okay to use information from reliable news sources and sometimes people in your community, but ultimately the only advice you should put into action is from a licensed attorney. Remember, just because something worked for someone you know, doesn’t mean it applies to your situation. 

Do these mistakes only affect undocumented people?

If you are proved guilty of a crime as an immigrant, there are often more severe consequences than if you were a citizen, including affecting your livelihood and the wellbeing of your loved ones.

Can these mistakes cost me my residency or citizenship?

Yes. Oftentimes if you have been committed of a serious crime, it may be a priority for law enforcement to seek deportation, even if you are a green card holder. In some cases, you may end up in jail temporarily, which could still affect your path to citizenship. Committing any crime could temporarily or permanently disqualify you from naturalization. The law gets complicated, so extreme caution is recommended.

Thalia Carrillo is a writer based in Austin, TX. She moved from her hometown of El Paso, TX to pursue a journalism degree at The University of Texas at Austin. She enjoys covering politics and pop culture and has a passion for social justice, digital storytelling, plants, and specialty coffee!