He was tired. He just got out of jail a few weeks ago. Ten plus years in the United States. Multiple lawyers, hearings, consultations, all for nothing at that point. He had a dream during that faithful day at the airport in New York, somewhere around 2000, after a month long trip, the itinerary of which was deftly planned by some snakehead, one who instructed him to destroy his passport in the plane prior to landing, which he did.
At customs in the airport, as it was with every foreigner trying to enter the United States, he was inspected and questioned by an officer. He had nothing. Not his real passport, not a fake passport, not a card, no immigration document whatsoever, just as the snakehead instructed him.
A common occurrence in the mid to late nineties on to the turn of the century, he was a Chinese national who was paroled as an arriving alien. Through a myriad network of “travel agencies” and lawyers, he went through what a lot of Chinese individuals went through around that time. Some ended up with brilliant lawyers, eventually winning their asylum cases, leading them to permanent residency and eventual naturalization. The unfortunate some ended up with worse attorneys, who half-heartedly represented their clients with minimum effort and “formula” arguments. He said he fell into the latter group, and he lost his case, even with a BIA appeal filed after, the decision was still sustained. He had a final order of removal.
He moved around New York City, working from restaurant to restaurant, toiling day in and day out to make a living. He eventually met what would later on be his wife. They almost had the same path of coming to the United States, almost the same set of people encountered through this immigration maze, from her entry, to her counsels, to her hearings. Alas they had different results to their asylum cases, unlike her husband, she won.
They eventually got married in New York, and she eventually became a permanent resident, and they eventually had two wonderful kids, and they also moved out of New York City, away from it all, where they’d find peace in raising their kids, or so they thought. They moved to a small suburb of Cleveland in Northeast Ohio. They ran a Chinese restaurant, bringing with them the work ethic that they’ve always had. He still had a final order. As far as he knew he was simply running a reverse race against time. He thought nothing could be done. He had a final order, he thought, and that was it.
He consulted with our firm sometime after he was released from immigration detention on an order of supervision. Immigration knew about him anyway, might as well consult with an attorney even though as far as he was concerned, he was done.
I still remember that day, that hopeless submissive look, that tired recounting of his experience, probably told dozens of times with different people, all with the same conclusion – “There’s nothing we can do, you have a final order”. He did not know the terms. He did not know what an arriving alien was. He went through the basics, his entry, his A number, his denied asylum case, his marriage, his detention, his tiring past. He brought two bags of files, and was adamant in simply dumping all paperwork on our tables, as we sifted through what should be the most important parts of the file.
It didn’t take long, to his surprise. We saw the notice to appear. He was an arriving alien. He destroyed his passport in the plane according to the various documents in his file.
We informed him he can apply for and get his green card.
His reaction was not that of joy, nor excitement, nor of surprise. It was more of a yearning look, a few ticks from begging, more close to hoping. Hoping that this is not a hoax nor a false promise. We could tell he’s been through it all. We were not sure if he believed us due to his past experiences, but we knew he can get it. We could not read his face, a blank look, even a doubting look. So it was to our surprise that within ten minutes he decided to retain our firm for his green card application. To this day we had no idea why he decided to retain us. We still remember that blank look on his face after we told him it’s possible. He probably thought he had nothing to lose. Immigration knows him already. He was just detained recently. Might as well go for it. My last chance.
The whole crux of these cases stem from a complex and sometimes epic tale spanning ten or more years, but fall under a simple premise: Arriving aliens with an unexecuted order of removal who remain in the United States past their final order are eligible to adjust status based on marriage to a U.S. Citizen, and the USCIS has jurisdiction over these applications. He was an arriving alien. He had a final order of removal. He was married in good faith to a U.S. Citizen. No fraud. No criminal record. Case is possible.
It was the usual process on our end since then, preparing the applications and arguments, attaching immigration memorandums on arriving alien eligibility, preparing the client for his interview, and ultimately accompanying our client at his interview.
Finally, after over a decade of toiling in the United States, he received his green card around two weeks later.
It was only then that his reaction could finally be discerned, when that numb expression on his face flew out the door. Ten plus years in the United States, multiple hearings, lawyers, consultations, and finally, he was not tired anymore. He finally has his green card.
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