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“I really think that I did the right thing,” he said.
Many people, though, are heeding their lawyers’ advice and postponing any application for legalization — even those who are likely to be deemed eligible. Natalia and Junior Roveda, who have been together seven years, managed to make it through their marriage interview last year in Massachusetts without incident. Roveda had come to the United States illegally from Brazil in 2005 and evaded a subsequent deportation order.
ICE agents who once allowed many unauthorized immigrants to stay in the country as long as they checked in regularly have, over the past year, begun arresting many of those same immigrants at their once-routine ICE appointments.
Unlike people who have had no prior contact with the immigration system, those who have already received orders of deportation have few, if any, protections against swift deportation.
de Oliveira told him that his father was working out of town. de Oliveira, a house painter, had no criminal history.
With legal papers, they could buy a house and get a bank loan. “The good news is, I’m going to approve your application. The bad news is, ICE is here, and they want to speak with you.”ICE was Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the federal agency charged with arresting and deporting unauthorized immigrants — including, for the moment, Fabiano de Oliveira. For decades, marriage to a United States citizen has been a virtual guarantee of legal residency, the main hurdle being proof that the relationship is legitimate.
In a back room of the immigration office in Lawrence, Mass., two agents were waiting with handcuffs. But with the Trump administration in fierce pursuit of unauthorized immigrants across the country, many who were ordered deported years ago are finding that jobs, home and family are no longer a defense — not even for those who have married Americans.
They had shown the immigration officer their proof — the eight years of Facebook photos, their 5-year-old son’s birth certificate, the letters from relatives and friends affirming their commitment — and now they were so close, Karah de Oliveira thought, so nearly a normal couple.
Thirteen years after her husband was ordered deported back to his native Brazil, the official recognition of their marriage would bring him within a few signatures of being able to call himself an American. Then the officer reappeared.“I’ve got some good news and some bad news,” he said.Until 2013, undocumented applicants had to leave the country and wait out the application process from abroad, in some cases for as long as a decade, before returning with green cards.