Naturalization as a Form of Relief in Removal Proceedings

Question:

I have a question about relief from removal. I am a 58 year-old citizen of Mexico and long time lawful permanent resident of the United States. After immigrating to the United States with my family, we settled in California. I am the father of three children and four grandchildren.

While growing up in California, I often found myself in trouble with the law. In retrospect, I blame my poor behavior on my limited English, lack of education, and struggles with mental illness. My addiction to drugs lasted many years and caused me a great deal of trouble – both personally and legally. As early as 1989, I obtained relief from removal with a waiver under INA § 212(c). Since then, I have successfully graduated from an alcohol and drug program. As far as my mental health is concerned, I have made that a priority and regularly see a mental health professional and attend counseling.  

In 1998, I was severely injured during my employment. At the time, I was working at a waste management company and was crushed on the job when garbage fell on me. My injuries were severe. I am permanently disabled and have a pending workers compensation lawsuit.

Currently, I am in removal proceedings. I was issued a Notice to Appear alleging that I was deportable under the following section 237(a)(2)(C) of the Immigration and Nationality Act for a conviction in the Supreme Court of California for the offense of carrying a loaded firearm/public place in violation of Section 12031(A) of the California Penal Code. Pursuant to section 237(a)(2)(C):

Any alien who at any time after admission is convicted under any law of purchasing, selling, offering for sale, exchanging, using, owning, possessing, or carrying, or of attempting or conspiring to purchase, sell, offer for sale, exchange, use, own, possess, or carry, any weapon, part, or accessory which is a firearm or destructive device (as defined in section 921(a) of title 18, United States Code) in violation of any law is deportable.

I am a much different person now than I was many years ago. Most importantly, I have not been involved with the law for over 10 years. I am taking care of myself now and I am more engaged with my family and community. I am very active in my church and I volunteer at the local food bank and with other charities.

Do you believe there is any relief available for me?

Answer:

Thank you for your question. Since I have not reviewed your file, I cannot state for sure what, if any, relief is available to you. Your question does however provide an opportunity to consider one possible form of relief: Naturalization.

Naturalization as a Form of Relief to Removal 

In some circumstances, an individual in removal proceedings may request termination of those proceedings in order to file an application for naturalization. 8 C.F.R. § 1239.2(f). This form of relief is available to individuals who can: (1) establish eligibility for naturalization, and (2) exceptionally appealing or humanitarian factors.

Pursuant to INA § 316(a),

No person, except as otherwise provided in this title, shall be naturalized, unless such applicant, (1) immediately preceding the date of filing his application for naturalization has resided continuously, after being lawfully admitted for permanent residence, within the United States for at least five years and during the five years immediately preceding the date of filing his application has been physically present therein for periods totaling at least half of that time, and who has resided within the State or within the district of the Service in the United States in which the applicant filed the application for at least three months, (2) has resided continuously within the United States from the date of the application up to the time of admission to citizenship, (3) during all the periods referred to in this subsection has been and still is a person of good moral character, attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States, and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States. 

Good Moral Character

As stated in the statue, an applicant for naturalization must demonstrate that he or she has been a person of good moral character during the five-year residence requirement. Thus, any act committed outside of the five-year is not a statutory bar to naturalization. Rather, it is a factor that the adjudicating USCIS officer will weigh when considering all relevant factors.

Based on the information you provided in your question, you may be eligible to terminate removal proceedings to apply for naturalization. Remember, however, that in addition to meeting the requirements under INA § 316(a), you must also provide evidence of exceptionally appealing and humanitarian factors. Evidence could include the following:

  • Your long-time lawful permanent residence,
  • Your strong family lives in the United States,
  • Your lack of involvement with the law for over a decade,
  •  Your rehabilitation, and
  • Your contributions to your community

You may not be eligible for naturalization, but it is a form of relief to consider. To confirm your eligibility to terminate proceedings in order to naturalize, or any other forms of relief, please contact the office to speak with us.