Craig’s (brief) summary of immigration status issues

I put these notes together to give people enough of an overview on immigration issues help them engage in discussion about this volatile issue. I am sure it is not perfectly accurate so please excuse any mistakes. The more we know, the stronger we are and the more we can help those in need.





There are essentially two types of immigrants:


  • Green Card (Legal Permanent Resident)
  • Work Visa
  • Temporary work Visa
  • Tourist Visa
  • Student Visa (F1 or M1)
  • Refugees
    • They have status before coming to the US
  • Asylum Seekers
    • They apply for refugee status after getting to the US
  • , Etc.

Some countries are covered by Visa Waiver Program which means people can visit the US for a vacation or a similarly fairly short time (90 days or less) without having a visa.


  • Came without a visa
  • Fell out of status
    • Overstaying visa
    • Violating terms of visa

After a year, Asylees and Refugees can get green card, but nothing in immigration moves that fast. And US citizenship of children makes the entire family eligible for some assistance regardless of family’s immigration status.

Even Green Card holders do not have full citizenship rights. It’s a permanent status but it can be revoked under certain conditions, such as having committed a crime. Green card holders are exempt from Executive Order travel bans. If they abandon permanent resident status by, for example, leaving for more than a year, then they may lose their Green Card.



Immigration enforcement is a Federal responsibility and is one responsibility of  Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

People are scared of going to see doctors, as is the courthouse, even if they are documented and have status. This can be an issue if they are needed to testify. Violence Against Women Act is one form of “humanitarian visa” such as U-Visa that give you pathway to green card (3 years after U-visa), but it can take years to get that U-visa status.

Being married to a US citizen helps get a WAWA visa faster but green card holders are slower.

Due Process protections are minimal in immigration, to include no appointed lawyers (though you have a right to one).

ICE does Civil Removal and Criminal Removal (illegal entry, harboring, etc. You have a right to an attorney, etc.). The Civil Violations of the immigration statute- violating your status or maybe being convicted of a certain type of crime and falling out of status- means ICE can process you for deportation and that’s civil law. It is an arrest with probable cause requirements followed by a federal administrative hearing, etc. If there is a prior removal order against you or some other factors, you may get a truncated “administrative removal” process without a judge.

ICE always needs probable cause. They have burden of proving folks are out of status. Which is one reason that legal representation at the deportation hearing is important.

“Sensitive Location Memo” under Obama limited where ICE would go- hospitals, churches, schools- but that’s just guidance. With a warrant from a judge, ICE can go into those places.

Way fewer protections from ICE on the public way.

ICE has an investigation division that tracks folks down.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)-These are people who came to the US as undocumented children and remain undocumented. The DACA program means that the US has not aggressively enforced immigration laws against them, many of whom have been in the US for decades, went to school, have families and so forth, but it does not give them status and they remain undocumented.



Cambridge has no obligations to support federal deportation laws at all. This is a Federal responsibility and the 10th amendment rules. Basically, the Feds pre-empt us on this stuff.

I do not know if ICE tells us what they are doing or how CPD responds and/or supports ICE’s actions. Somerville apparently has a hotline to SPD for folks to call if ICE knocks on their door (I could not find it) and their school department has information on its website. They will then check the ICE’s documentation and if these folks are ICE.

There is no reporting obligation for ANYONE about a person’s potential immigration status. We cannot pass a law that prohibits officials asking or reporting about immigration status/place of birth to ICE but there is no affirmative reporting duty.

When CPD arrests someone, their fingerprints get sent to, among other places, ICE. And if ICE notices someone has overstayed her visa, they can issue a detainer and ask us to hold that person until ICE comes to pick them up. Will we do that? What agreements do we have with ICE? Do they tell us who they’re picking up, etc., etc.

Same with Health Centers, housing, probation offices and court houses.

That is a question for CPS- what do they do when ICE shows up? How do they advise parents on directories and how their address becomes public knowledge? Families with immigration concerns should opt out.

Even people who are in status or are US citizens may have friends and relatives who are undocumented and thus still worry about interaction with officials. This worry may put them at risk of being abused by landlords, employers, neighbors and so forth because they fear that going to the City, or any other official body, may bring immigration enforcement into their lives.

Food pantries are useful in getting resources to immigrants who may be worried about status.

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