Reiterating again that I have no training and can't speak about immigration law with any sort of authority, I did want to share the story of one man I met there.
Jose was 4 years old in 1986 when his family fled the civil war in El Salvador. [As a brief refresher, Central American civil wars, particulary during that time period, typically feature corrupt and brutal governments armed and supported by the United States.] The family did not apply for asylum, but managed to obtain work permits and, for the most part, green cards. Jose let his work permit expire, which means he is no longer able to apply for green card, at least not from within the country. Effectively, it meant that despite living here nearly his entire life, raising a 6-year-old son, and having no criminal record, Jose was in the country illegally.Go A's.
Earlier this year, Jose bought a stereo system for his car off the street. He was pulled over for running a stop sign [which is apparently still against the law in some parts of Los Angeles]. The police officer saw the stereo under the driver's seat, and immediately booked Jose on grand theft auto. With no evidence to support the charge, the prosecutor lowered it to possession of stolen property. Jose was convicted. Now he's in a Lancaster jail, awaiting deportation to a economically depressed country that is in no way his home. Jose said he had no gang affiliation, but is afraid of the gang violence that the U.S. exported to El Salvador in the last two decades.
So what did the lawyer tell him his options were? One was to try to win some international awards for his sketches and get legal status under a provision generally reserved for Olympic athletes. The other was to ask for voluntary removal, which, if he were to get it, might make it easier for him to get a visa to come visit in the future.