Readers ask about punishment law

Questions continue to be asked about the proposed change to the penalty law. Unfortunately, the USCIS proposal has not yet been approved. As soon as a decision is made, I will be informing you.

In my column of La Opinión This week I am answering several questions from readers, including two on the law of punishment. Here I provide general answers to your questions. Each case is different, so you should consult an attorney for personalized legal advice.

When does the new law that would establish a provisional pardon to the law of punishment go into effect? - Diego D.

There is not yet a date set by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). A period of public scrutiny was recently concluded. Many comments were submitted for and against the proposal. USCIS will now evaluate the comments and publish a final rule. It is not known how long that process will take. It is important to note that the new proposal would only cover immediate relatives - parents, spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 - of qualifying U.S. citizens.

I am Mexican and entered the United States undocumented in 1999. I have been married for two years to an American citizen. She petitioned me in 2010 and my application was approved. Will I have to leave the country or should I wait for the law to change? - Arturo M.

Unless you are covered by 245(i), you will not be able to apply for permanent residence in the U.S. through your spouse's application. If you do leave the country to apply for permanent residence, you will be subject to the penalty law which will not allow you to return to the U.S. for a period of 10 years unless the government grants you a waiver. Consult with an immigration attorney to determine your legal options.

I am from Guatemala and I entered the US undocumented in 2008. I have never had any criminal problems or immigration arrests. My sister is a citizen and wants to petition me. What are my chances of being approved and fix my legal status in this country? - Jose A.

Your sister should file a family petition on your behalf. The USCIS will approve the petition if you meet the proper requirements, including showing evidence of U.S. citizenship and relationship to each other. You will have to wait approximately 12 years for an immigrant visa to become available. Depending on what the immigration law is like at that time, you will either be able to apply for permanent residence in the U.S. or you will have to leave the country.