By Brad Bernstein
President/New York Immigration Attorney
The Law Offices of Spar & Bernstein
The Board of Immigration Appeals made a dramatic, powerful, albeit unusual decision at the end of last month. All it did was change immigration law across the land, in all 50 states, making an important distinction between “admitted” and “inspected” and how it affects adjusting status through marriage to a United States Citizen.
In the past, if you wanted to adjust your status through a marriage to a USC, you had to prove that you were both “admitted” and “inspected,” which means that you came into the U.S. through an airport or a border crossing, showed your passport/visa, and Immigration officials checked the documents, stamped everything, and proceeded to wave you through.
Well, on July 28, in the Matter of Graciela QUILANTAN, Respondent, it was decided that a woman who came through the border from Mexico in the passenger seat of a car in 1993, who Immigration “admitted” but never “inspected” (or for that matter asked a single question), was still entitled to adjust her status (which Quilantan applied to do in 2006, when she married a U.S. citizen).
The fact is, Immigration officials didn’t dispute she was a passenger in the car. The judge didn’t dispute it either. The BIA simply decided that as long as the woman didn’t try to evade inspection – such as hiding in the trunk or under a blanket or sprinting across the border – admission was enough for eligibility, essentially reaffirming a 1980 case, Matter of Areguillin, in which Areguillin held that the term “admitted,” as it is used in one of the laws relating to adjustment of status, means that the entry of the person proceeded with “procedural regularity.” The BIA explained that a person is “admitted” “when the inspecting officer communicates to the applicant that he has determined that the applicant is not inadmissible.”
The ruling, of course, will help immigrants as well as immigration attorneys prove that even those who weren’t asked questions are just as eligible to adjust status as those thoroughly inspected. It puts the burden on immigration officials to stay on top of situations, to ensure compliance with admission requirements, rather than on the immigrant to pipe up information on their own or prompt a line of questioning.
But the Million Dollar Question is this:
How does one prove they were admitted but not inspected?
I mean, how does the judge determine what’s truthful and what’s not, other than to rely on the testimony of the person in question or the testimony of that person’s friends?
The answer: a credible detailed witness.