Now that everyone may have heard about the possibility of some immigration legalization (amnesty)
law that the government is trying to pass, many people wonder how it will affect them.
In general, people likely fall into two categories. First, people who may be undocumented (illegally in
the U.S.) are likely to benefit from any immigration reform. Who exactly? It is very early to speculate
what categories of people will be able to get some immigration status as a result of some future law.
The second group of people who often ask me are people with criminal issues. More likely than not,
these people may not benefit directly. In fact, some will argue that any new laws may make it even
tougher on non-U.S. citizens with criminal arrests and/or convictions. As such, people who fall within
these two categories should immediately weigh their options.
All too often, families contact me because their loved one is detained by immigration officials in New
Jersey because of a criminal arrest or conviction and is now facing deportation in an Immigration
Court in Newark , New Jersey. What I tell these people is that one of the most important decisions
they will make is the choice of a lawyer. Each person facing these issues should be represented by an
immigration lawyer who not only has the experience with these types of criminal/immigration issues,
but a lawyer who has the support staff to assist the lawyer and most importantly, a lawyer who truly
cares about his clients and does not just treat the law practice as business.
Just last week, we had several cases, where our office used various strategies for various fact based
matters. In two of those cases (with the third case still pending), we obtained results which put a smile
on everyone’s face in my office.
One case dealt with someone who was a permanent resident and was facing deportation/removal
because of multiple drug arrests and criminal convictions. To make matters worse, his removal from
the U.S. was likely days away when his family hired our office. He had missed his immigration court
date and an immigration judge had ordered him deported. We immediately filed a motion to reopen
the deportation/removal proceedings, which was granted and stopped the government from deporting
him pending the outcome of a trial. We then filed all applications for relief. After testimony, both the
Immigration Judge and even the immigration prosecutor (Immigration trial attorney) agreed to the
relief we were seeking. As a result, he was released and joined his family. He had been in custody for 8
months held under mandatory detention.
In another case, our client had been a permanent resident since the 1970’s and entered the U.S. under
the age of 10. Yes . . . you heard right. His entire family was in the U.S. including his wife and his young
son. He had been previously convicted of sexual abuse of a minor in criminal court as result of pleading
guilty. His prior criminal lawyer had told him to plead guilty and that he would not be deported because
he had been in the U.S. for such a long time. Our client claimed that he was innocent and that his
attorney urged him to plead guilty. This was terrible advice because his conviction was deemed an
aggravated felony, which would almost certainly lead to his removal from the U.S. When he retained
our office, we immediately went to work believing in his innocence and thinking about reuniting him
with his minor son who he hadn’t seen in many months. An option we saw was to try to vacate (get rid
of) his criminal conviction due to the bad advice he had received from his prior criminal attorney. After
this motion was filed, we went back to the Immigration Judge and convinced the Immigration Judge that
after he decision by the Criminal Court Judge (vacating the conviction), the government (Immigration)
could no longer hold him in custody due the conviction being vacated. The immigration prosecutor
strongly objected at first. However, the Immigration Judge agreed with us and the deportation/removal
proceedings were terminated (closed) and the client released. After being in custody for almost 9
months under mandatory detention, he was finally reunited with his family.
In a third case, our client was charged with having been convicted of a drug offense, namely cocaine.
We argued to the Immigration Judge that the government (Immigration) could not prove that the
drug involved cocaine and that proving the type of drug involved was a necessary element of the
deportation/removal case. The Judge adjourned the case in order to see whether the government
would agree to terminate (close) the deportation/removal case due to our strong argument.
As you can see, there isn’t one way to handle a case involving criminal issues. Our office employs
various methods depending on the facts of the case. So, if you have a loved one in custody, employ
every method available to increase the chance of a positive outcome for him or her.