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Borderless Magazine
January 13, 2021

For Undocumented Immigrants, a Shot at Lawful Residency Requires Risking It All
By Yilun Cheng

By placing himself in deportation proceedings, Santos could apply to adjust his status and possibly attain a green card through a benefit known as cancellation of removal. “I know this was a big risk, but I just don’t want to live in the shadows anymore,” said Santos, who lives with his wife and children in Riverside, a suburban village outside Chicago. “I used to be nervous all the time. If everything goes well, I’d like to push a reset button and start all over again.” But Santos’ long journey to legal residence was only beginning. Applying for cancellation of removal ­­–– a type of deportation relief that adjusts an immigrant’s status from “deportable” to “lawfully admitted for permanent residence” –– has never been swift or easy. Its legal provisions are so obscure and its eligibility requirements so demanding that only 6.5 percent of the more than one million immigrants who entered into deportation proceedings in the past four years applied for the benefit, according to data from Syracuse University’s Transactional Access Records Clearinghouse (TRAC).

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, Syracuse University
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