The Florida Bar

Florida Bar Journal

Honest Immigration

by Erika Cisneros Book Reviews

Honest immigration book coverIn Honest Immigration: How to Stay in the United States Legally and Become a Permanent Resident Due to Mistreatment, out-of-state attorney Erika Cisneros provides a basic overview of three humanitarian visas that allow undocumented individuals to legally stay in the U.S. The immigration process can be complicated, and is fraught with misperceptions and entrenched rumors — many of which Cisneros debunks. One such myth is that you automatically qualify for permanent residency simply by living undocumented in the U.S. for 10 years. Ostensibly written for the undocumented individual seeking to stay in the country legally, at times Cisneros shifts her audience to attorneys, providing advice on handling such cases, including how to coax information from wary clients. Teetering between a beginner’s treatise and a pamphlet advertising Cisneros’s services, there is, nonetheless, value in the stories told.

 Cisneros provides options for those seeking the “American dream” but that instead find themselves in an “American nightmare.” Client stories highlight common experiences that undocumented persons face upon arriving in the U.S. — as victims of domestic violence, human trafficking, forced labor, and violent crime. From the dust of these horrific circumstances, Cisneros offers undocumented individuals a ray of hope through three types of humanitarian visas allowing eligible undocumented individuals to stay in the U.S.: the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the U visa (victims of a crime of violence within the U.S.), and the T visa (victims of human trafficking). Each leads to legal permanent residency. Unlike with the family petition process, undocumented individuals may apply for these visas from within the U.S. without a sponsor.

 Client anecdotes provide examples in this 150-page primer on humanitarian visas, illustrating how varied circumstances qualify under each type. “Luciana’s Story” is one of spousal abuse and infidelity that qualified her for permanent residency through VAWA. The horrors of labor trafficking are told in “Renata’s Story”; the T visa provided respite after all she endured. Along the way, Cisneros addresses common concerns keeping those affected from seeking help — the fear of being deported, the fear of being separated from family, and the fear that their abuser will find out. Although these fears can be paralyzing, Cisneros reminds readers that finding a legal way to remain in the U.S. can keep these fears from becoming reality.

 Hoping they will identify themselves in the stories of others, Cisneros reassures lay readers of the benefit of contacting a lawyer specializing in applications for humanitarian visas. Honest Immigration provides hope and encourages people in similar circumstances to not live in fear. Unlikely to be helpful for a specialist in this area, for the general practitioner and lay reader, Honest Immigration provides a quick and easy introduction to the three humanitarian visas available to qualifying persons.

Lyndsey E. Siara of Tampa is a member of The Florida Bar.