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Posted on Sun, Jul. 24, 2005

Salvadoran in limbo after seeking asylum

By Jessie Mangaliman and Edwin Garcia

Mercury News

Q I came from El Salvador in 1992 without authorization but immediately applied for political asylum. My case hasn't been resolved. However, I continue to receive work authorization every year, and I have a Social Security card. What happens if I marry a U.S. citizen? Could she petition for my residency? Is it true I may have to leave the country and wait 10 years until I re-enter?

René Garcia
San Jose

A In general, someone in your situation under the current law doesn't stand much of a chance of adjusting status based on a marriage to a U.S. citizen, said Stacy Tolchin, an immigration attorney in San Francisco.

People who entered illegally are ineligible to adjust their status unless a qualified relative or employer petitioned for them before the April 30, 2001, deadline for a law known as 245-i, said Tolchin, a lawyer with Van Der Hout, Brigagliano & Nightingale, LLP.

The petition could have been filed by the spouse or other qualifying relative.

An asylum seeker from El Salvador can go forward with that application, Tolchin said, but he or she will be asked if the home country's conditions have changed.

Political conditions have improved in El Salvador, which minimizes your chances of obtaining residency through asylum. However, said Tolchin, that option always remains open. In general, someone in your position can also leave the country and seek permanent residency through a spouse who is a citizen. However, the applicant would be barred from re-entering for 10 years if he or she has been undocumented in the United States, Tolchin said.

But if the person had employment authorization since 1997 and did not work at any time without authorization, then the bar may not apply, she said.

In addition, even if the 10-year bar applies, the person seeking an adjustment of status may be granted a waiver if the separation from his or her spouse would cause extreme hardship, Tolchin said.

San Jose Immigrant group relocating: Services, Immigrant Rights and Education Network (SIREN), a non-profit immigrant advocacy group in San Jose, is moving from its First Street location to new offices.

The new SIREN offices will open Aug. 1 at 1425 Koll Circle, San Jose, Suite 103.

``We're growing,'' said Larisa Casillas, SIREN's policy director. ``The number of our clients has increased and we needed bigger space to better serve them.''

Immigrants who call SIREN's old number will be forwarded to the new telephone.

SIREN's hotlines will also change, effective Aug. 1. The new Vietnamese hotline is (40 453-3013. The new Spanish hotline is (40 453-3017.

USCIS informational workshops: A workshop on ``Overview of Naturalization'' will be held in Cupertino on Thursday, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. It will be in English with Chinese translation at the Good Samaritan United Methodist Church, 19624 Homestead Road, Cupertino.

Another workshop, ``How to Petition for Alien Relative,'' using immigration form I-130, will be held Aug. 2, from 9 to 11 a.m. It will be presented in English at the Campbell Union School District, 295 W. Cherry Lane, Campbell.

The workshops are free, but call the reservation line, (40 918-3986 to save a seat.

This information is not intended as legal advice. Any person with questions about his or her individual circumstances should contact an immigration lawyer, a state-bonded immigration expert or a federally accredited immigration representative, and should not rely on general statements made in this column.
Send your questions to immigration@mercurynews. com or fax us at (40 288-8060. You can also write to us at: Immigrant Experience, San Jose Mercury News, Newsroom, 750 Ridder Park Drive, San Jose, Calif. 95190. You MUST include your name, daytime phone number and city of residence.