In recent years, immigration laws across the country have become noticeably more complicated, and Nebraska is no exception. Knowing your rights and options as an immigrant in Nebraska might be more difficult than ever before, whether you are documented or undocumented. Census studies also show that the immigrant population in Nebraska is growing, with approximately 7% of Nebraskans being born in another country. Almost 40% of that group have earned U.S. citizenship.
To shed some light on Nebraska’s immigration laws and get a better understanding of the situation as a whole, it helps to review a few key points.
U.S. Constitution Applies to Everyone
The United States Constitution provides important legal protections and rights to all Americans. What might not be clear is that non-citizens are given the same rights as American-born citizens. Even if you enter the country without using legal channels, you have the same basic rights as anyone else. In other words, you can seek legal counsel, defend yourself from injustices, and much more.
No Documentation, No Crime?
There is a widely spread misunderstanding of what it means to be an “illegal” immigrant. Both federal and Nebraska laws do not make it illegal to simply be in the country without proper documentation. With this said, being “undocumented” should not be used to say that someone is “illegal.”
An immigrant can do illegal actions, though. Entering the United States without an inspection by border authorities is illegal — but just being in the country afterward is not. Although, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) estimates that approximately 5.5 million undocumented immigrants – or roughly half of that population – entered the country legally, only to lose their documentation later, such as due to papers or visas expiring.
Bringing Your Family, Too
Legal permanent residents (LPR) or green card holders can petition to have their immediate family members to lawfully enter the country, just as a U.S. citizen can. Your children and spouse, and possibly your parents, can all be named in a family-based immigration petition if you are an LPR. If this is an option that you are considering, then you should speak with an immigration attorney in Nebraska as soon as possible. Family-based immigration processes can be notoriously lengthy with seemingly unnecessary delays.
Legal Protections for Abused Women
Nebraska recognizes the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). This statute lets an abused spouse, child, or parent to petition for lawful immigration status on their own and without the need for any input from their alleged abuser. The keyword being alleged because the petition can be filed even if the abuser has never been arrested, charged, or convicted of domestic violence.
VAWA is important because it gives immigrants in dangerous households a chance to make a life for themselves away from their abuser while minimizing the risk of their abuser finding out early. Please speak with an immigration attorney in your area as soon as it is safe to do so about what to do if you need to use VAWA as an immigrant in danger of domestic abuse.
Removal Cancelation for Long-Time Immigrants
After living in the United States for 10 years as an undocumented immigrant who is not a citizen or LPR, you can petition for cancelation of removal if you also have a spouse, parent, or child who is a citizen or LPR. The argument you can use is that your removal from the country would place undue hardship on your family member, such as if you provide the main source of income for your family. You can also petition for a removal cancelation if you have been a legal permanent resident for five or more years and have lived in the country for seven or more years. The caveat is that you cannot have an aggravated felony conviction on your criminal record.
More Answers for Additional Questions
Are you an immigrant living in Nebraska who has more questions about how immigration laws might impact your living situation and future wellbeing? Carlson & Burnett would be happy to hear from you and help you discover and utilize your rights. We proudly offer our legal services to people from all walks of life, including undocumented immigrants who are looking to build a life in America.
Give us a call at (402) 810-8611 and speak with someone from our Omaha immigration law firm today.