Immigration Corner | Undocumented and pregnant in America
Dear Mrs Walker-Huntington,
I am in the United States illegally because I overstayed my visa. I just found out that I am pregnant. What are my options?
As a person who came to the United States with a visa and was inspected and admitted by an immigration officer at a port of entry, you are eligible to adjust your status to permanent residence. To do so, you must be the immediate relative of an American citizen, i.e., you must be the parent of an over-21-year-old American citizen, the under-21-year-old child of an American citizen, or the spouse of an American citizen.
Having an American citizen child does not give an undocumented parent any legal status. Your child cannot file a petition for you to become a legal resident until he is 21 years old. If you choose to remain in America and give birth to your child, he or she will be an American citizen and will be entitled to all the rights and benefits thereof. If you are undocumented for a certain number of years and are slated for deportation and your child has medical or psychological issues, you many have a defence against deportation.
After the birth of the child, you can choose to remain as an undocumented person, which would leave you open to deportation at any time you are apprehended. Know also, that the state you are residing in can move to take your child and terminate your parental rights if you are undocumented and due for deportation. If you choose to remain, it is highly suggested that you develop a guardianship plan to determine who would have custody of your child if you should be deported.
You also have the option to marry the father of your child, and if he is an American citizen, he could file to change your status from undocumented to a green-card holder. You could also leave the US after the birth of your child and the child has secured a US passport.
- Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington, esq is a Jamaican-American attorney who practises immigration law in the United States and family, criminal and international law in Florida. She is a mediator and special magistrate in Broward County, Florida. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org