Yesterday I had the opportunity to participate in the Central American Migration Fair in Los Angeles, where I provided free legal assistance to several people. The event was organized by the consulates of Central America and Mexico and several non-profit organizations.
Unfortunately, in several cases, people seeking advice came to me too late. I say this because they had previously gone to notaries to help them with their paperwork.
This is one of the most serious problems I generally encounter in cases where immigrants could have resolved their legal status, but due to bad advice from people not authorized to give legal advice, they are still undocumented. Please read my column at La Opinión to learn how to choose a legal representative.
The other problem that arose yesterday during the consultations I gave is that many immigrants did not file the corresponding applications at the time they should have done so.
One Guatemalan woman I spoke with, for example, has been living in the U.S. for over 23 years, but never filed an application in all that time. She could have qualified for the NACARA program and would be a legal resident today, instead of undocumented.
There is no telling when there will be comprehensive immigration reform. But until that happens, it is very important that you keep proof of your stay in this country.
Save utility bills, rent receipts, phone bills, tax returns filed with the IRS - or any other receipts with your name on them. All of these documents will someday serve to prove that you have lived in the country and paid your taxes, something that could help you be eligible for adjustment of status when the laws change.
Also avoid any problems with the law and save as much as you can to cover the costs of future immigration proceedings.