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Immigration Law with Antwayne Robertson
Episode 919th July 2023 • The Miller Law Chronicles • Attorney James Miller
00:00:00 00:51:41

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Join us for an enlightening discussion on The Miller Law Chronicles podcast featuring Attorney Antwayne Robertson, a seasoned expert in immigration law. We delve into the intricacies of obtaining green cards, navigating U visas, and staying ahead of immigration trends. As we unearth Attorney Robertson's inspiring journey from being a Milwaukee local to a renowned immigration lawyer, prepare for eye-opening insights on immigration law, and unravel the lesser-known potential routes to legal status in the U.S. Gain invaluable advice on policy changes and learn strategies to overcome immigration hurdles. Stay informed, stay prepared!


Attorney Jamie Miller: [:

Today we have a really important segment where we will be joined by Antwayne Robertson. Who is a lawyer here at Miller Miller and Antwayne's going to spend some time today talking about immigration and different opportunities that we can present to our clients to help them obtain their green cards in legal status in the United States. Antwayne's gonna talk a little bit about his personal story and his journey from growing up here in Milwaukee and going to Riverside High School and going to law school at Marquette to become a [00:01:00] sports law lawyer and then ultimately find his passion in doing immigration laws.

He's gonna talk about obtaining U Visas and Vows and different ways to get legal status in the United States. How people can stay up to date on trends in immigration and just generally great ways to take the stress off of people when they're dealing with immigration law issues.

And so Antwayne's just a great resource for this information. I'm just really excited to share Antwayne's story and the great information that he has about immigration in our country today.

with us on our team for the [:

So, excited to welcome him here today. Thanks Antwayne for joining us. How are you?

Attorney Antwayne Robertson: I'm doing great. Thanks for having me. Feeling good, end of the week and immigration businesses is busy, so that's always good.

Attorney Jamie Miller: Yeah, I remember when you and I first chatted several months ago and we were inquiring about bringing you on to the team and tell us a little bit about your background, your family life, how you got involved in immigration and that type of thing.

with an advisor and kind of [:

Unfortunately, with what a lot of us learn when we get to that program is most of us are not actually going to ever be working in sports related, you know, fields because sports law itself is many different fields that just kind of have this a common thread of they happen to sports players so but I don't regret it because one of the great things that it helped me do in addition to my Internships when it came to a lot of juvenile work family work stuff with the Corporation Council office in Waukesha I got a very broad range of so that when I came out and I decided that I wanted to start my own [00:04:00] firm, I could work as a general practice and sort of figure out what I wanted to do.

So, after a couple of years, though, I did kind of decide that I didn't like working on my, like, just on my own all that much. I like the idea of at least having another partner or two. So, the Riverwest Law Firm in my neighborhood had a posted an inquiry about any potential attorneys in the area that might be interested in joining up with them because one of their partners were leaving and the partner that was leaving was doing immigration work and that was not something I had any experience in at that time.

rts because of the amount of [:

So when I took over. They did not tell me what their caseload was going to be. I should have asked but I was suddenly dumped with like 60 clients. All of a sudden immigration stuff, but the partner that left did a really good job of walking me through not just the clients and their cases, but how to do each case.

He helped out a ton. He was going to the USCIS. He was a really good immigration attorney. So when it came time to doing the actual work, I felt pretty comfortable getting into and helping these clients finish their cases because their cases had already been started for the most part, except for a few that still needed to be filed.

and African, Western African [:

Most of my work before that was in family law, divorce, and I did not like it at all. I hated the, not just adversarial nature, adversarial nature is fine, but like just the amount of poison that could be found in those proceedings, not just between a husband and wife or two spouses or whatever, but also involving their children.

My dad was a social worker and even though I wasn't a social worker, I developed an affinity for helping children when I was out in Waukesha on my internship and then ended up becoming a G. E. L. in family court. So I was the guardian ad litem for children and I'd have to see this stuff with parents have.

about immigration is that I [:

And that's all, you know, these people want. They're coming in, they don't, I don't think you'll find many people that want to be undocumented. So, I love being able to help these people find a path. To work and relieving their anxiety because they don't have to worry about ICE, Border Patrol, anything like that coming after them.

, we've been married for six [:

And what we eventually decided is that if that were to happen, I have to kind of shift out of the one or two partner firm stage and kind of move on to a larger firm where I can become more established, have more of a stable client base, one that wasn't so up and down.

Attorney Jamie Miller: Where did you grow up? Well, did you grow up in Milwaukee?

Attorney Antwayne Robertson: Yeah, so I lived in River West for most of my life. I think my parents lived somewhere on the west side, northwest side on like Burle or something when I was really young. But we moved to the river west area and I was there for 20 some years.

Attorney Jamie Miller: That's great work. Did you go to Riverside High School?

ich was a really interesting [:

From you that, and that's, you know, not something to look down upon or anything like that. So, from a very young age, that's what schooling and my parents kind of wanted to instill in me. You know, don't, people are going to be different and that's fine. That doesn't mean you can't be friends with them, you can't help them out they, you know, need it or anything like that. So yeah, Riverwest was great in general in that regard.

Attorney Jamie Miller: Yeah, it's always interesting. I mean, a couple things that you know, I'm thinking about as you're kind of telling us a little bit about yourself is, it's remarkable how we as lawyers or as young people head in a direction for you. Maybe it was sports law and going to Marquette, which is great.

And [:

In that I think we both thrive in areas, me, bankruptcy, you, immigration, where you're really helping people. And you have the ability when someone comes in, whether it's an immigration problem or a bankruptcy problem, that we're able to offer a solution and help them to improve their lives. And it's just really rewarding.

ce told me that he saw me as [:

I, as he said, live through my work and because of that, the need to be fulfilled. And feel like I'm really making a difference. It is necessary for me to be able to give my all into my job. So, that's something that I've learned the more I've been doing this, and the more I've tried to embrace it as much as possible and make it become my passion. Even though, like you said, immigration wasn't something that I would have ever thought was my years ago.

f, it helps to fill that need[:

And, I appreciate that. I think sometimes those decisions are the hardest when you have to, kind of pivot and change directions. And I hope that that's working out for you. But I give you great kudos for being strategic and thoughtful about what you need, and I think that's a good lesson for all of us, for young lawyers or for anybody.

Attorney Antwayne Robertson: Yeah, and I'm not sure how much you've gotten into. I know you're a big fan of the EOS model and you gave me the Traction book, which I still have. I've read it two times. Once for myself as a kind of a reflection of what happened when I worked on my own and self employed. And then read it again as a kind of perspective going forward.

eally interesting thing that [:

I had to do something different. And the situation that I was in at that time wasn't going to be optimal long term. Maybe it's something I could get back into, you know. Years from now, my career is still pretty much in front of me but for now, this sort of Pivot and the experience I've already gotten in the, you know, three or four months that I've been here. It's been amazing. So far.

I've really [:

That's great, I appreciate you saying that means a lot. And being able to have you work, you know, independently and help our clients is valuable to everyone. I wanted to kinda jump in a little bit and start talking about immigration and about the areas of immigration that you practice and what immigration status is and in visas you're dealing with.

t a big practice area people [:

Sure, so there are two main types of immigration petitions, so to speak. Immigrant petitions and non immigrant petitions. Non immigrant petitions being temporary stays generally, there's no permanence to it. Whereas the immigrant petitions are the ones that generally lead you to that path of getting a green card, becoming a lawful permanent resident, as they call it.

and normally the immigration [:

Attorney Jamie Miller: Before we, let's take a quick step back. We hear a lot about the term green cards in the U. S. and I'm not sure all of us really understand what that means. What is a green card?

Attorney Antwayne Robertson: So a green card is essentially a form of identification given to an immigrant stating that they are what's called a lawful permanent resident of the United States. It has an expiration. However, technically speaking, once you are become a lawful permanent resident, you're always a lawful permanent resident unless you abandon your status by, say, leaving the country or something like that.

ication. Instead of having a [:

Also in immigration itself, citizens are given preferential treatment over green card holders for petitions, for relatives and stuff like that. So you'll very often see. People who get their green cards want to become citizens as soon as they possibly can. But the green card itself is essentially their ticket to being able to reside in the U.S. without fear of, you know, any type of unlawful repercussion on their part.

rney Jamie Miller: Right. So [:

Attorney Antwayne Robertson: So that's the first big fork in the road that happens with family petitions. Did you enter legally or did you enter illegally? They create very different scenarios and illegally is always the toughest because what ends up happening is that the USCIS will say, sure, we'll look at your family petition to see whether you are indeed the spouse or the parent or the child of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident.

waiver as long as they don't [:

So there are, the family petitions still offer a route to a green card for these undocumented immigrants. But the USCIS does take steps a little further when they've entered illegally than if they entered legally. And it's really tough for people to want to leave and then come back into the country to kind of put their trust in the government that they won't screw them over and they'll give them a fair shot.

The government has tried to make the waiver program a little more streamlined in that regard. When you're an immediate you have the ability to submit your waiver before you ever leave the country, which is really great. You can get the waiver approved so you have peace of mind when you're leaving that you are not going to be out of the country for very long.

at permission ahead of time. [:

Attorney Jamie Miller: And, how does somebody enter the country lawfully and then try to get permanent status?

Attorney Antwayne Robertson: So what ends up happening frequently is somebody will come in to visit say a family member or a girlfriend whatever and they will come in on a tourist visa. So, you know, they come to the country and the U.S. officials say, sure, yeah, enjoy your stay. And then circumstances change for one reason or another.

he moment. And suddenly they [:

You can do what's called an adjustment of status from whatever you were before, tourist, whatever students is another big one. To lawful permanent residents. And you can do that all while remaining in the United States. You don't have to leave. You can even get advanced parole to leave and visit family outside of the country and come back.

And if you want to do that it's, there's a really stark contrast in how the applicants are treated between whether they entered the country legally or whether they entered illegally, but the two most common statuses that people have when they come in legally are either students or visitor.

ttorney Jamie Miller: Right. [:

Attorney Antwayne Robertson: Yes so.

Attorney Jamie Miller: And what do you like? What do you look to like? What are you looking for to see if you can help someone?

Attorney Antwayne Robertson: Right, and there's a lot of hoopla about stuff that's happening at the border and stuff like that now because there aren't many options for undocumented immigrants, but there are options. Aside from having a family member who is a US citizen or lawful permanent resident. The two biggest options are asylum which are very tough cases because you have to prove that there's a credible threat or fear of going back and being persecuted in your home country.

somebody threatened my life [:

What they can to bring you over to our government, our way of life. So asylum is really risky in that regard. The other option is a.

Attorney Jamie Miller: When you say risky, it's just it's hard to get your status adjusted based on an asylum.

you have a deportation order [:

But the other visa that really gives somebody who has, have no options, an option is the U nonimmigrant visa. The nonimmigrant as this kind of this nummer. The second aspect is if you are a victim of a qualifying crime, there's a list of crimes that the USCIS has that's considered a qualifying crime, you can, and you are helpful to law enforcement in attempting to investigate and prosecute this crime, you can submit a petition to the USCIS stating that I was a victim of a crime, I helped police, the police acknowledge my assistance, and then you can get approved for a U visa. And then after three years of being approved for a U visa, you get to apply for your green card, your adjustment of status.

. That's here to sponsor you [:

The thing that kind of looked at the most is basically, were you a terrorist? And other than that, that means multiple illegal entries, which would normally be a 10 plus year bar from entering the United States. That's not something that's considered. So that is really a great option for people that not only might not have many options to them, but stuff has happened in the past that makes those options even more difficult.

they would never have had a [:

Attorney Jamie Miller: Right, and in the U visa, you know, I know you've worked and you've managed and handled many U visa cases, but can you give me a fact scenario of what a typical U visa case might look like?

Attorney Antwayne Robertson: Sure. So let's say a person was in a car or something like that, walking down the street and they were the victim of an armed robbery person had a gun, threatened to them harm if they did not give over property. And then the person that's the, so the perpetrator takes off, the person alerts the police, the police come, they give a statement as to what happened, you know, as much as they can remember.

re, you know, there might be [:

So what the person has done is A, they were a victim of what would be considered a qualifying crime. Armed robbery would fall under the category of felonious assaults since the person was threatened with substantial bodily harm. With you, in this case, with the use of a lethal weapon. And then they ensured that they told police about it.

And not only that, continued to work with police after the initial report. And then from there. You know, hopefully the person at that point is prosecuted to the furthest extent of the law. And so what happens in that case is they've hit the major requirements of eligibility for a U visa. So what happens is that they come to us and the first thing we need to do is get certification from that law enforcement agency.

ped you out, we believe this [:

With these sorts of issues, because before the U visa program existed, people were very afraid to go to the police when they thought. I'm undocumented. I might go to the police and I might get shipped off to, you know, and deported the next day. I have no idea. So, you have done what we, what the program is meant to do.

val. They get to work during [:

If it's approved, suddenly you got your green card. Turn a very scary, dangerous, and harmful situation into something positive for the victim.

Attorney Jamie Miller: And does it. Do you have to be the victim, or can you be the witness of a crime also? Because I would think the same thing might come into play, because if you're witnessing and you're not legally in the state, you may not want to get involved.

what they've experienced and [:

That also works if, say, your spouse or your child or something like that was the actual victim and not you. As someone who is related to that person, you could have still suffered harm because of a qualifying crime that happened to one of your family members.

e. That's the key element to [:

Attorney Jamie Miller: Got it, and it's my understanding that it can be from an incident that happened yesterday, five years ago, or 20 years ago, so.

Attorney Antwayne Robertson: Correct. The biggest issue with time is a matter of can we get the police report? Does do the police still have the police report to be able to give you a good enough? You know, advice as to whether or not your crime is qualifying. Because that's that, we always like to look at the police report.

We've been able to get police reports from 25 years plus back, which isn't super easy to do, but you know, we do our best to make sure that we're able to get those records. But in terms of the eligibility requirements for the U visa, all that has to happen is show that the crime was qualifying and that you were helpful to police and that could go back 30, 40 years, as long as you have the evidence to be able to prove that those things happened.

And what happens sometimes, [:

Attorney Antwayne Robertson: Yes, and it is very unfortunate. The law enforcement agencies are not required by law to provide these certifications. They are kind of seen as a favor. However, there's still some oversight. In regard to that, a big example recently has been the Chicago Police Department. The I think it was at the state level, they realized that the CPD had been denying a ton of application certification requests that should have been granted because they were qualifying crimes.

And [:

I know for a fact there are some police departments in North Carolina that absolutely refuse to certify any U visas. So that's why we also try to get as creative as we can to which law enforcement agency that we will submit these certifications to. It doesn't just have to be a police department.

really about casting an open [:

Attorney Jamie Miller: Right. And can you do like an open records request to get that information?

Attorney Antwayne Robertson: Yes in fact, most cases oh, in terms of the like their approval denial rates, or in terms of like the getting like police reports and stuff like that.

Attorney Jamie Miller: Yeah, getting, like, if you have a district attorney or, you know, police department that doesn't want to, you know, cooperate with you, can you go around them and do an open records request and get the police report?

as a sort of formal records [:

You'll, we'll simply email them and say, hey, this is the information we have. Can you send us the police report? And they'll get it right to us. And I think that's been a big positive results of a lot of things becoming digitalized. I don't think they have a problem sharing a record with us because they know.

That ultimately they can still say no, even if we submit something to them, but they still won't have an issue. They're not going to make a fight out of giving us the records. There are also some agencies that will be sticklers when it comes to, if something's in the middle of investigation still, they will not give you the report until the investigation is concluded.

ike providing police reports [:

So when that happens, we just have to check in, you know, once a month, something like that, just to make sure we're on top of it and we get the report as soon as it becomes available.

Attorney Jamie Miller: And are you finding that people aren't aware of this U visa opportunity?

Attorney Antwayne Robertson: Yes. Not only possible immigrants, but also some law enforcement agencies will like, we'll have to tell them we know what this is. It's always nice to be able to work with someone who doesn't think they have any options. We hear their story. They're going through a consult because maybe they thought they could get a family petition or something like that, but it turns out that they're not really eligible for that.

s was a system that was only [:

They hear about this from friends. They just type in U visa. In Google or whatever, and we'll be one of the first firms that come up as a firm that specializes in this sort of still very new option for these individuals. And that's, so, very consistently getting clients like that, because we always ask, you know, where did, you know, where did you, like, oh, I heard about U visa's, and you're one of the first firms that came up when I searched for it.

ld. That'll never get old. I [:

Attorney Jamie Miller: Sure. So we've been talking about U visas. What are some other routes that someone who may have come to the U.S. illegally can attempt to obtain or overstate a visa can attempt to obtain citizenship here?

Attorney Antwayne Robertson: So yeah, the most common one is marriage. Marriage, marriage to a U.S. citizen if you're married to a U.S. citizen and you overstay your visa basically what you do is you file it as though you weren't overstayed, except that you explain, I overstayed, this is why, this is the change in circumstances.

to be harmed by a family, an [:

Especially if those U.S. citizens are willing to put themselves on the hook for anything financial as a sponsor because that's, the government's always, you know, worried about the financial aspects of it but yeah, so marriage is the most common one. There are times where people are married and then they think about doing the petition, but then the marriage ends poorly to the point where that individual might have been abused in some sort of domestic violence.

When that happens, all is not lost for that individual just because their U.S. citizen spouse or ex spouse won't sponsor them anymore. You have the option to file a VAWA petition, which stands for Violence Against Women Act. It doesn't just apply to women, though. It applies to any individual that was in a relationship, an abusive relationship.

married to that person as an [:

Most of the time when we're talking about undocumented immigrants, their best bet for any type of green card route is going to be those that immediate relative route. If you're not looking at something like a U visa, U visa is one of the very few options where you don't need a family member to be a part.

ever come into the country. [:

Just, the option is available to them. One other prominent thing that's becoming more prominent, in fact, is temporary protected status that essentially gives somebody lawful status. You're not a green card holder but you're not here illegally technically during the period of your temporary protected status. And during that time you can also work which which that's going to be a big deal for a lot of people and, then it's just a matter of how long the temporary protected status goes on for example Nicaragua has had that status since 1999.

the United States lawfully. [:

Attorney Jamie Miller: Right. And, you know, of course, you're a lawyer, you're trained in this area, but are there resources out there that someone who has questions about immigration can reach out to? Of course they can contact you, but if someone just has a question about status and what they can do, what's a good resource for them?

Attorney Antwayne Robertson: Well, our website's one good resource. We provide a lot of very. The USCIS website itself is very good. The problem is that people A, they don't want to have to go to the government website because it makes them feel, you know, anxious or whatever. And two, it's not the easiest to navigate.

tions. Obviously our website [:

Attorney Jamie Miller: Yeah, it's probably exciting for you to have an opportunity to consult with somebody who is having issues with their status in this country and then kind of going through the litany of opportunities and choices and then coming up with a potential solution. Is that what you find someone comes in? They don't know what the solution is, and you're able to help discover that with you?

Attorney Antwayne Robertson: Yeah, absolutely. Being, it's almost like for those who are into puzzles, it's like you're putting together a puzzle and that feeling that you get when you finally finish that puzzle and you feel like you accomplished something and you accomplished something that was constructive.

this person, or we're trying [:

Avenues that a person can take. And it's about finding which one will fit best for them. And I very much do enjoy being a part of that process and helping them figure out what is going to be the best fit for them.

Right, and are there any recent trends or developments or things that are happening on either with the President or Congress or on the national level that our listeners should be aware of at this time?

Attorney Antwayne Robertson: So it's, they should always, this is just a PSA going forward for all of our listeners, the change in government is always going to be a big deal because the USCIS based a lot of what it does and it's a decision making based on policy because they're the actual law. The immigration statutory law is not very expansive.


But one interesting situation that's happening is as they decline to rule on some of these more. 50/50 applications where they're not exactly sure whether or not they should rule on it or not. They're simply not ruling on it as opposed to denying it and that's creating this whole backlog that's causing a lot of. Applications to now take longer. Then they had been before. So one thing I would tell listeners you know, if you decide to go with us or any other firm or whatever for your immigration needs to be prepared for a longer wait than maybe [00:46:00] someone you've heard of who went through the same process four or five years ago.

They've the USCIS are they're trying these new routes to try to help their efficiency. And it just is not working so far. COVID was a big part of that. They had, they lost a lot of their workforce, and they're trying to make up for it, but their, what they've implemented so far just isn't working.

So even though you might not have to worry about an elevated level of anxiety for a denied application, you might have to live with the fact that your application will take longer to process than it would have before, until they find a solution to that problem.

h, I mean how do people stay [:

Attorney Antwayne Robertson: So, a lot of people do it through word of mouth, and that's never a good thing, because we cons, we very consistently Deal with people come in and say, well, I heard this. We're like, no, no, no, no, no, no, don't. Don't freak out. That's not, you know, that's not the case. Unfortunately, though, there aren't a ton of resources out there bilingual resources, at least for people that to help people keep up with the change in laws, especially since again, these are policies.

Policies can change day by day. And for someone like me, it's really easy. We get our digest emails from the various legal resources, but those same legal resources might not be something that the layman has access to, unfortunately. So we do our best to update things that are going on just as we do with bankruptcy.

hare all that good news. But [:

Attorney Jamie Miller: Right. And what would advice would you give someone who is, you know, considering. You know, issues and opportunities that they have to get green card status in the U.S.

attorney about it. I think a [:

Most attorneys, ourselves included, provide consultations for free. It's our goal to be able to help you feel more at ease about your situation, whether it's because you decide to retain us or you just get a little more informed as to update laws and what you can expect going forward.

to someone else, or talk to [:

And I know that people can go to our website and figure out different ways to reach you, but I really appreciate Antwayne taking the time. Do you have any final thoughts before we close out today?

about the system and how to [:

Attorney Jamie Miller: Right, and the immigration system can be really complex and hard to understand, and we just spoke about a really small part of opportunities that people have, and thank you for your time, and we'll look forward to continuing our journey together and helping as many people as we can, and take care and we'll talk to you soon.

Attorney Antwayne Robertson: Absolutely. Thank you very much.

Attorney Jamie Miller: Thank you.