Getting Your Power Back by Self-Petitioning for a Green Card
Hello, everybody. Good morning. My name is Ifeoma Odunlami, for those who do not know me, and I'm an immigration lawyer from Odunlami Law Firm. This morning, I have a wonderful topic for you and so I'm going to wait for a few people to get on and then we can begin to chat. I want to talk to you all about knowledge and empowerment because it's so important for you, as an immigrant, to have the knowledge because knowledge is power. And so, I come on to give these Facebook Lives and the immigration videos to empower immigrants because when you know, you're not afraid, you're hopeful, and you're able to make the right decisions for yourself. Hi, Aisha, good morning. Glad to see you. I'm really excited to talk to you guys about this because I want to make sure everyone knows the right information, they're doing the right things to get themselves properly situated in America.
You guys know I'm an immigrant, right? And I'm from Nigeria. Now I'm a US citizen, right? And I'm a US citizen, my husband is a US citizen, my siblings are US citizens, my mother is a Green Card holder, my husband is a US citizen, his siblings are US citizens, and what I want to tell you today is we were not born here. We became naturalized citizens, we all came from Nigeria with a purpose and that purpose has been fulfilled. And so, that's what I want to talk to you guys about, right? About being focused on what you want, which is this Green Card and, ultimately, your United States citizenship, okay? And the way to get to do that is not by listening to people who don't know what they're talking about or people who are giving you wrong information because, as an immigration lawyer, I cannot tell you how many times I am in shock over the information that's being pedaled out there for immigrants, giving them wrong information.
It's usually people, they're not lawyers of course, they're, I don't know, notaries or family friends or people who did something and worked for them and now they're advising all the people to do the wrong things. And sometimes these things they're doing are detrimental to the ability to get Green Cards. I want to talk to you guys about this because it's so difficult when somebody calls and they've really screwed up this case so bad that it's going to take a long time and a lot of money to get them back where they need to be, if that's possible because sometimes there's some things that the person has done that makes them permanently barred from any immigration benefits. That's what I want to talk about today and I'm going to go into different ways to get your Green Card through self petitioning, which means you don't need anyone to help you, you can do it yourself. You can get your power back.
When I talk about is I'm talking of people who are being abused. Now, the typical immigrant is in fear. They're afraid of being deported, they're afraid of not getting their papers. Imagine somebody who has that fear and also has abuse and they're really at the bottom of the ladder when it comes to being able to get themselves out and that's the reason why my law firm really talks a lot about the different types of opportunities available to people who are being abused. I was talking to ... Another thing I want to talk about is knowledge, the empowerment through knowledge. When I came in here to this country, I came in with a dream, right? I wanted to be a lawyer. That was my little dream, to be a lawyer, and that little dream helped bring my siblings over, four siblings, helped bring my mother over, and now I have children who are American and they're Nigerian as well and, for me, I think that's just the best of both worlds because I love being American, I'm proud to be an American, I'm also proud to be Nigerian, as you know, [inaudible 00:04:49], you know.
A lot of us have the same background, you're American and you're from another country. Nobody in America really, except native Indians, are truly American so basically somebody in your family, it could have been three generations ago, had the dream to come into this country and they came in and they bought everybody else. Here I am in America now, I have my siblings, my husband has his siblings, he has his mother, I have a group of friends who I grew up with in Nigeria who are here. We have our community. It's like we left Nigeria but we're still here in Nigeria because we have our family members, our friends, and now we're meeting more people, get to making new friends, making new family members because our families are marrying, inter marrying with other people, right? It's fantastic. Immigration is the best thing.
My purpose and my job is to help you get to where I am, a US citizen, and I want to help you get there safely, all right? And so, to that extent, it is your job as an intendant immigrant to empower yourself by listening to information, proper information by lawyers, not by the notary out there, not by a family friend who said, "Oh, I did this and it worked for me." You have to listen to the source, right? You have to get information properly. You also should have consultations with at least one lawyer and maybe several because sometimes different lawyers thinking outside the box for a complicated case could come to different resolutions. It's your job to help yourself by getting the information out there, right? And, hi, Shola, good morning, how are you?
Back to empowerment, right? You need to get the information so you know what to do and another thing about empowerment, I tell you, when I got my Green Card, right? I think I had been out of ... My work visa had expired so I had worked without authorization for a while. When I married my husband who was a Green Card holder, who was an intending Green Card holder, I couldn't adjust status inside the United States. I would've had to leave the United States to adjust status and that would've meant I would've been outside for a long time because then the waiver laws were different. It's now easier but back then, it took a longer time and I didn't want to do that but, luckily, I went to a lawyer because I wasn't an immigration lawyer at that time and they found this little law that helped me. That allowed me to adjust my status within the United States and pay a fine. That was it. And so, that saved me so much hassle, saved me the trouble of leaving the country and struggling to come back in here.
That's why it's really important for you guys. Please, please, please don't let people who don't know what they're doing give you immigration advice. Go to the source, go to an immigration attorney and even though I'm giving you this broadcast here and I give you all this information, it doesn't take the place of a proper consultation because immigration cases turn on very minute information. It always depends on what your case is about. The best thing you can do for yourself is to get the proper information through the proper source and sometimes it costs money. Immigration to the United States, the filing fees, the attorney fees, it costs money. But this is important and this is the one thing you need to do to get yourself where you need to get yourself. And I'll give another example, my husband, funnily enough, we were talking about it over the weekend and he was telling me how he got a job offer, he had to apply for a J-1 Visa but he didn't have any money so he had a lawyer but didn't [inaudible 00:09:01] a lawyer and the lawyer didn't do anything because he hadn't been paid.
His employer now, potential employer, sent him a letter saying, "If you don't get this visa by this date, we're going to withdraw the offer." So, he had to go borrow money from a friend. He said $3000, he still remember. He said he had to borrow $3000 from IOU and he paid the lawyer and got his J-1 Visa and was able to start working. Ultimately, he was able to get the J-1 waiver and then he got his Green Card and then he met me and he filed for me, we got Green Cards together. When I naturalized, I was able to file for my family members and so that's how I have changed the course of my own generation. You could be the person changing the course of your generation by getting your Green Card, getting naturalization and doing it the right way.
Even if you've done things that are not right, your lawyer can tell you if there's a way to fix it because a lot of things are fixable. A lot of fraud is fixable, misrepresentations is fixable, as long as your open up to your lawyer, be honest so that ... It's called a waiver, right? There are many things that you can waive. There's some things that you cannot waive and I think I've discussed that many times. Sham marriages is a permanent bar, false claims to citizenship, when you say you're a citizen, you vote or you apply for a job and check off the place that asks if you're a citizen, that's called a false [inaudible 00:10:31] citizenship, that's a permanent bar. Also, certain other conducts, which I'm not going to go into detail because I want to get into what I want to talk about right now, which is getting your Green Card through self petitioning and empowering yourself.
I'm going to talk about four different types of visas, right? And I'm going to talk about them briefly and then I'm going into the types of abuses we're talking about so that if you know somebody who's going through this, you can share this video with them. You can also hit the subscribe button if you're on YouTube so that every time I have new videos on Facebook Lives, you're able to get that information. There's a U Visa, right? Now, with a U Visa, if you've been the victim of a crime, right? Certain crimes, and you assist in the police in prosecuting that crime, you're giving testimony or telling them something, helping them in one way or the other, you could quality for U Visa and the great thing about U Visa now is that, recently, you can now get a work permit while you're waiting for your U Visa to be adjudicated so that's fantastic, right?
I know there's a lot of undocumented people do not like to call the police, they don't like to get in touch with the police, they don't want to have anything to do with the police. Well, you have to because, luckily now, the police is not ... Four years ago, when if you were committed of some kind of crime or anything, they would refer you to ICE. If you're the victim of a crime, please call the police, okay? Let the police take the information. If you want, you can look into qualify for U Visa, assist them in prosecuting that crime by giving them information that they need and sometimes, even if you're not the victim of the crime but you witnessed the crime and it caused you some emotional trauma, you could also qualify for the U Visa. If you think that you or somebody you know could benefit from this, call a lawyer. Call my office 973-993-1900.
Now, we'll go to the T Visa, right? The T Visa is a trafficking visa. It could be sex trafficking or labor trafficking. Let's start with labor trafficking. If somebody is making you work and not paying you or pay you very little money, that's a form of trafficking. You can qualify for the T Visa. Now, sex trafficking, basically what it says. When they get young women or men and force them into sex for pay, okay? If you know somebody who is being trafficked, they could qualify for the T Visa, right?
Now, let me go into another humanitarian type of visa, which my office does a lot of this as well, it's the SIJS, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. Now, this is for the young people, right? If you're present in the United States, because you have to be present here, you're present in the United States and you've been abused, abandoned or neglected by family member, by either your one parent or both parents. It doesn't have to be both parents, it can be one or both. If it was in your country, the abuse could've happened in your country, that's fine, but if you're here currently and you're married and you're under the age of 21 ... 21 in some states like New Jersey, in other states, it's 18. You can qualify to get a Green Card through a Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. We've done a lot of work for undocumented children who are by themselves here, we're able to assist them, or even with a parent here, with one parent. If the other parent back in their country abused them, neglected them or abandoned them and death can be abandonment in some case law, that child under the age of 18, or 21 in some states, can qualify for a Special Immigrant Juvenile Status.
Now, the other case that I'm going to talk about is VAWA, I talk about VAWA a lot because I have a lot of VAWA valid cases. There's many people who are in bad relationships. If you're in a bad relationship with a US citizen or a Green Card holder, right? You can quality for VAWA. If you're the child of a US citizen or Green Card holder under the age of 21 and you can qualify also for VAWA. If the person who is abusing you, your Green Card holder parent or US citizen parent, is actually a step parent, then the qualifying relationship, which is the step relationship, the marriage between your parents, must've happened before you turned 18. And if you're the parent of a child who's been abused by a US citizen or Green Card holder, you can qualify to apply for VAWA even if you are not being abused in that relationship. And if you're the parent of a US citizen who is 21 and over and you're being treated badly, you can also qualify for a VAWA petition.
These are the four types of humanitarian type visas, they're all there. There's Asylum but I'm just talking about this four. These are the type of petitions that you do not need anybody to petition for you, right? You can get the petition on your own. Well, apart from the SIJ, you need somebody who will file in family court as your custodian, but once you get that predicate order from the court, when you apply for the SIJ petition, you don't need anyone to do that for you. And if you have any questions about that, please call my office. We want to assist as many people as we can. Let's talk about abuse, right? As a Nigerian, I find that a lot of intending immigrants are not always familiar with what the US say is considered abuse to be and that's because, culturally, that behavior is not considered abuse in our countries, right? For instance, if you have a spouse, and I'm going to use he or she interchangedly because men are abused just as much as women so when I say she or he, I don't want you to think VAWA is only applicable to a certain sex or gender. VAWA is applicable to men, women, children, okay? I'm going to use my pronouns interchangedly.
If, say, you're from a country where it's considered a woman's job to cook and clean and basically take care of the house without any contribution whatsoever from her husband and you're married to somebody like a husband who is a US citizen or Green Card holder and they're making you do all the work and they do nothing so you're the one cooking and cleaning and they're demanding so much of you. You go to work, you come back, you have to make a fresh meal everyday and they get angry when the food is not made or you make a food or some type of dish they don't like, then they throw it out and make you do something again. In some countries, they might say ... I know in Nigeria, maybe they would say, "Oh, some other Nigerians may listen." They say, "Well, why didn't you cook the food right the first place? You should go back and learn how to cook." But in America, that's abuse. That's abusive behavior. That's unacceptable, okay?
It's important that if you're in a relationship where your soul is just tortured, right? Even if you think that's the way it's supposed to be, talk to a lawyer that specialized in VAWA and see if you qualify for VAWA. I'm going to talk about different types of abuse and this is a good video for somebody who is currently in that relationship or in that situation or knows somebody who is in that situation. Let's talk about physical abuse. To be clear, abuse does not have to be physical. We know physical abuse to be smacking somebody around, grabbing their hair, punching them, but there are also different types of non contact abuse. If your spouse drops you off ... You get into a fight with your spouse, they drop you off in the middle of the highway, knowing that they're endangering you, you have no way of coming back because you don't have any papers, you can't drive, or even if you have papers ... Sorry, even if you ... Because now they're giving undocumented immigrants a drivers license in some states so maybe you can drive. They put you in harms way, they put you in a situation where you could be harmed, where you can't find your way back, that's abusive.
Or they're drunk and they're driving recklessly, endangering your life. That's physical abuse, even though it's non contact in the sense that we understand it. Or your spouse abandons you in the home with no food, no money, and they know that you don't have any money, you're not able to buy, you're not able to get anywhere, you don't have anyone to get you the stuff, that's physical abuse, even though it's non contact, right? And I made a list here. If they have a weapon, even if they're not using the weapon, they have a gun or a knife and they place it on the table to intimidate you, right? That's abuse because you're intimidated. You're afraid, right? It's control, right? Let's see. If your spouse is putting you in danger and threatens you that if you call the police, you are the aggressor, that's abuse, right? I know some of you are thinking, "Really? I didn't know this." That's why you need to listen to these videos because you need to know what's acceptable, what UCIS will deem acceptable and what they will deem abusive, okay?
Now, let's talk about verbal abuse. Verbal abuse, your spouse is calling you names, typical names I hear all the time from my clients. Sometimes some names are cultural. I know my Jamaican clients, they say that sometimes maybe a wife will call a husband a certain name, which really means something really terrible. I remember a Jamaican client who said his wife had told him to, "Go sleep with your mother." And apparently that's really insulting, that's really bad, right? And, see, that verbal abuse may not be abusive to somebody else who doesn't get the implications but if you're Jamaican, you get it and it hurts or they use certain words or they call you a slut or a [inaudible 00:22:31] penis or they're constantly deriding you, making you feel bad about yourself, embarrassing you in front of people, minimizing you, making you feel like you're nothing, like you have no worth, that's a form of verbal abuse. They're yelling and screaming at you, degrading you, they're sending you text messages and maybe on social media, maybe privately, insulting you. That's all verbal abuse.
Now, let's talk about financial abuse and I find with financial abuse, most of my ... Financial abuse really happens to a lot of men, right? You're with a woman who feels that you have to cater to her, you must purchase this, you must do this, and they're not going to ... Because that's your job, because they got you the what permit that is allowing you to work therefore you owe them, right? That can actually go either sexes. Or they go to your bank account and they taking money from the bank account without your permission, right? That's financial abuse and financial abuse could be also being your spouse refusing to allow you to go to work because they know that if you go to work, you might meet people who might tell you that the situation that you're in is toxic or they feel that if you get this job, you're going to get money and then you're going to be empowered and then you're going to leave them so they don't want you to work, right?
Or you want to go to school and they feel that if you get an education, you're going to better yourself and you're going to leave them so they don't allow you to go to school. That's all a form of financial abuse. Now, let me talk about behavior that harms your credit rating, like you have a joint account with your spouse. They do things that harm your credit rating. For instance, they write checks that's constantly withdrawing the account, making the bank shut down the account because you're a credit risk or they open credit cards in your name without telling you, right? Now, let me think, if your spouse is threatening to report you to IRS or forcing you to give them money or refusing to work, because I hear a lot of clients say that once they get their work permit, their spouses don't want to work anymore because they feel that you should give them the life that they should be entitled to because you're in this country because of them, you have a work permit because of them, or whatever reason they have, okay?
You know it doesn't feel good, you know that this is not right, right? You feel that this person has this power over you and you can't do much about it because within you, you know that you kind of have to keep them happy otherwise they could destroy your life, they could lie about you. A lot of my clients, their spouses will say things like, "The police is not going to believe you because you're undocumented here. Nobody's going to believe you. I am an American and everybody's going to believe me." That's not true by the way, okay? Now, let's talk about ... We talked about verbal abuse, we talked about financial abuse, we talked about physical abuse so let's talk about sexual abuse, right?
We typically know sexual abuse to be rape but sexual abuse can be other types of abusive behavior that's not forcible sex, right? If your spouse is guilting you into having sex or telling you that you owe him or her sex or making you do certain sexual things you don't want to do, that could be sexual abuse. If your spouse is keeping you ... Not including you in maybe conversations regarding having children or both of you have agreed to have a child and, behind your back, your spouse is taking some form of birth control, right? That's a form of abuse. I actually had a case where a client thought they were planning to have ... They were trying to have children but the spouse was taking morning after pills all the time, right? And it was so bad that he thought there was something wrong with him like why wasn't she getting pregnant? That's a form of abuse, when you and your spouse are supposed to be trying for a child and your spouse is refusing and not telling ... Is not a conversation but basically going behind your back, or your spouse is forcing you to have a child and you don't want to have a child.
They're putting pressure on you and basically making you feel like you have no choice in the matter, right? If your spouse is putting you at risk of an STD because they're cheating ... Now, let's be clear, cheating, in itself, is not considered abuse but if they're putting you at risk of an STD because of the fact that there's cheating and all that, that is abuse. And let's see, or your spouse is calling you sexual names, making fun of body parts, making you feel like nothing or using information that you've told them about yourself to minimize you, make you feel bad. Those are all types of abuse. Hi, Leverne, how are you? When I get through this, if you guys have any questions, I'm happy to answer it because I am going to need to get off in a few minutes so let me go through this real quick.
Let's talk about emotional abuse. You have a spouse who's shaming you, making you feel bad about yourself. Either they're shaming you because of the way you speak, maybe they make fun of you, you don't speak English, you have an accent or they make fun of things about you, maybe your heritage, your culture, the type of food you eat, or they get angry when you speak your language with other people and, let's see, thy exclude you from decision making, they make you feel like you're not good enough, that nobody's going to want you. I think I had a client that said her husband had told her that nobody's ever going to want her because she has nothing to offer, she has no papers, she has nothing and just the way to keep that person feeling belittled and feeling that they can't get any better, right? And some of these things sound like marital issues but, honestly, this is not normal, okay? Don't let anyone tell you that it's normal in the marital situation to feel diminished, to feel like nothing, to be talked to badly, to be forced or guilted into having sex, to be yelled at, to be screamed at, and to have things thrown at them, even if it's not making contact with you, it's all abuse and it's not normal. Don't buy into that, okay?
And now let's talk about psychological abuse. Now, psychological abuse is intimidation, right? The person is doing things to intimidate you, hiding documents. They know very well that you need all these documents to file papers and they know that and they're threatening you with, "I'm not going to show up for the interview, I'm not going to file this paper, I'm going to withdraw my petition. I'm going to call this person, I'm going to file this report." All that kind of behavior, threats, intimidation, destroying documents you know that that person needs for their paperwork, that's all a form of psychological abuse and sometimes this abuse doesn't really fall neatly into a category, right? It could be in a few other categories but the important thing for you to know is if you're being badly treated, you should talk to a lawyer and see if you qualify for VAWA or for SIJ or for the U Visa or for the T Visa.
Some of my SIJ clients, they have parents that have beaten them up and in some culture, and even here in America, corporal punishment is not against the law, right? However, in some cases, we can show that this is not corporal punishment, this is abuse. If you are somebody who's under the age of 18, under the age of 21, you're married, you're in the United States and you have a relationship with one parent or both of them, it doesn't even have to be both of them, who is yelling at you, screaming at you, treating you badly, hitting you, it doesn't even have to be just hitting, it could be anyone of this, right? Starving you, not giving you food, abandoning you, not providing for you, not providing food, shelter, clothes, that could qualify you for a Green Card through the Special Immigrant Juvenile Status.
I don't see any questions here so I'm going to step out, back into my office, and continue to work hard for you people but, like I said, being empowered is the first step to freedom and how do you get empowered? Knowledge. You've got to know what you need to do, you have to go to the right sources, okay? If you have any questions, you know somebody who has an immigration issue and needs help, feel free to call my office. We're in [inaudible 00:32:49], New Jersey, but we help clients from all 50 states. My name is Ifeoma Odunlami, I'm an immigration attorney for [inaudible 00:32:57] Law Firm, where we fight for your immigration [inaudible 00:33:00]. Take care.
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Areas of Immigration Law:
Naturalization (Citizenship) Application
Immigrant Relative Petitions
Fiancé Visa Applications
Adjustment of Status and Consular Processing
Criminal Consequences and Deportation Defense
Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Application
Special Immigrant Juvenile Status
Green Card Renewals
Temporary Work Visas
Temporary Protected Status
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals