So you’ve been caught by Immigration, what’s next?

First of all, I would like to say that I am really sorry that this has happened to you. I remember when it happend to me. I was so scared, paranoid and traumatized. My heart would race whenever anyone knocked on my door. I also had trouble sleeping and had numerous nightmares.

Now that you have been busted, you probably feel like your life is over. However, I would like to tell you that it isn’t; your life has just began.

The US immigration system is set up to make your life a living hell. They want to break down your spirit and frustrate you so that you can either kill yourself or deport yourself and they will try their darndest to do so. Please don’t let them. Don’t give them the satisfaction.

Here are a few suggestions to guide you through this insanely scary time:

1. Dont Panic: It is easy to freak out and even lose your mind. Doing so will bring great joy to those clowns who caught you. Don’t give them the satisfaction. Panicking only made me hysterical and hard to live with. The last thing you wanna do is be a burden to yourself and those around you. So don’t panic. Resolve to take things one day at a time.

2. Don’t Hide: Deportation is such a personal thing; not every one of your friends and loved ones will know, understand, fathom or comprehend what you are really going through. Because of that you may feel tempted to become a recluse, to hide yourself from everybody. Please don’t do that. Whenever you are tempted to withdraw from those around you, force yourself to spend more time with them. Doing so will help you heal and prevent you from being self absorbed.

3. Be Tight-Lipped: The day I got arrested, I told a friend about what happened to me. Before I knew it, word was all over the place with the juicy details that pertained to my arrest and release. I felt betrayed. I forgave the dude but I learned a valuable lesson that day. Be very cautious about whom you tell your story. There are people out there who revel in the fact that someone has been arrested. It makes them feel relieved because at least it wasn’t them. I tell you, this situation will make you quickly realize who your real friends are.

4. Sell, Sell, Sell: You are being deported. There is no need to hang on to most of the things you have. Plus you will really need all the money you can get your hands on because you are not supposed to work and yet you are meant to provide bond money, buy a one-way ticket home, hire a lawyer, drive to court and to the office where you will be reporting to your Deportation Officer, etc.

If you are going to sell your stuff, start by selling them to your friends and then, later on, to the public on a site like Craigslist. I have also got to warn you that Craigslist has some crazy ass homo sapiens, so be on your guard when dealing with them. Most will wanna buy your things for free and even have the audacity to ask for a discount.

5. Carry your Papers: This is to me the most demeaning, humiliating part of this whole deal. You must carry copies of your deportation papers everywhere you go. Yes, everywhere you go. From now on they will be an unwanted, but necessary appendage. Everyday I carry those papers I feel as though I’m in Nazi Germany, but it’s for my own good. Not having your papers on you could result in immediate detention and possible deportation. Nobody wants a premature deportation; I know I don’t. Carry your papers.

6. Find a Lawyer: It is important for you to begin to shop for a good lawyer to represent you. If you are clueless when it comes to finding an immigration attorney, you are in luck. Check out this post I wrote on How to pick an Immigration Lawyer.

7. Don’t Do Anything Stupid: You may have been under the crazy illusion that you have the same rights as an American. My friend, I hate to bust your bubble and tell you that as a foreigner, and especially as a person in deportation proceedings, you don’t have much in terms of rights. An American dog probably has more rights than you. So please, for the love of God, don’t rob someone. Also, don’t drink and drive – that’s just stupid. Don’t do it.

8. Choose Life: A while ago, a friend of mine committed suicide because he had immigration issues. His death was a big loss to so many who knew him. He was a really, really cool guy and I still miss him. If you are having suicidal thoughts, please realize that many people going through deportation have the same thoughts. Deportation is hell, and most people going through it feel tempted, from time to time, to end it all once and for all. If you are at that point in your life, please seek help. Trust me, I have been there. The threat of deportation can make you wanna do crazy things. Killing yourself shouldn’t be one of them.

Connect with a local church, religious community, support group, or any positive organization that will prevent you from losing hope. Right now living may not seem worth it but trust me: your best years are still ahead of you!

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How to pick an immigration lawyer.

After you get caught your life will never be the same again. I was so traumatized after being visited early this year by  two ICE agents. It dawned on me the day after I was released from custody that I needed a lawyer.

I needed a damn good lawyer, one that would fight for me with every fiber of their being. Sadly, such lawyers are few and far between. My search for a lawyer took me all over my city. I even spent a fortune interviewing and consulting lawyers. I eventually found a lawyer who was a perfect fit for me.

Here are some of the things one needs to think about when finding an immigration lawyer who is the prefect fit for you.

1. Price: Most lawyers have a consultation fee. In my experience the fees start at $50. Sometimes the lawyer will subtract the consultation fee from the total bill if you decide to go with him or her. Make sure to find out if the lawyer is billing you by the hour or whether he or she has a flat fee. Be on the lookout for hidden fees.

2. Gender: Gender doesn’t matter. I know people don’t like admitting that they’d rather have a male lawyer instead of a female lawyer. Truth be told I have found female lawyers to be way, way on top of their game than their male counterparts. But that’s just my observation.

3. Free Lawyers: To me they are a myth, a legend, just like the unicorn or the mermaid. Don’t get me wrong, i’m sure they exist but i’m yet to see one in their natural habitat. I’m also sure they are a rare species because my guess is a lawyer’s got to pay the rent and like my hommie MC Ray Marcusi says; “Dude, ‘free’ don’t pay da rent!”

I think that when it comes to lawyers, you get what you pay for.

When you get your Notice To Appear (NTA), the kind and benevolent folks at ICE will include in it a page that has a free legal services providers list. Don’t even bother looking at it. It’s a waste of time. I researched the list and most of those organizations that were on the list weren’t helpful to me. Many are swamped with immigration cases as well as inquiries from people like you and me who want to be represented for free. My advise would be to bite the bullet and hire yourself a good immigration attorney, one who you can afford.

4. Reputation: I have heard so many horror stories of lawyers really screwing their clients over. It’s really heartbreaking. To some lawyers you are just a paycheck. The money you give him/her will probably go to buying a single meal at The Ritz Carlton or some other fancy restaurant. This person is going to be defending you. His defense will determine the course of your future so you better choose one wisely. Do your homework, ask friends  and family members if they know any good lawyers. Do your homework thoroughly as though your life depended on it because really it does.

  • Tip: After someone recommends a lawyer to you get online and Visit the State Bar Website of the state you live in. I live in Texas so my State Bar website is http://www.texasbar.com/.  Then click on the link for “Find a Lawyer.” Type in your lawyers full name or bar number into the search box and click on “Submit.” You will find almost all there is to know about the lawyer you are thinking of hiring.
  • Another Tip: Here is a site you can use to find a local immigration lawyer http://www.ailalawyer.com/