America took a beating on many fronts this year, but there are good reasons to believe 2021 will be better! Tomorrow we gather with our loved ones. We will mourn those we have lost; remember those who have sacrificed for us; and give thanks for the blessings we have received. Here’s to hoping next year we will celebrate, not simply with turkey and fine wine but gathered with our friends and family.
by Victoria Spagnolo
On Saturday, U.S District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis ruled that the appointment of Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf was unlawful, challenging his authority to limit the DACA program which prevents the deportation of undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.
About a month after the Supreme Court held that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had improperly terminated DACA, Wolf issued a memorandum in July that drastically scaled back the DACA program. It cut short the validity of DACA permits from two (2) years to one (1) year and ordered DHS to stop accepting new DACA applications.
Judge Garaufis held that “DHS failed to follow the order of succession as it was lawfully designated” and that Wolf’s appointment is an attempt by the Trump Administration to circumvent the courts and punish “dreamers” and bypass legal hurdles by seating its desired officials in top positions.
The decision follows a report by the Government Accountability Office, a bipartisan congressional watchdog, asserting that Wolf was improperly serving and ineligible under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act (FVRA). A federal judge in Maryland has also ruled that Wolf’s appointment was unlawful.
DHS continues to maintain that Wolf’s appointment was legal even without Senate confirmation. With inauguration day in less than two (2) months, there is a renewed push to get Wolf confirmed as Homeland Security Secretary.
Keeping families together is the best part of the work we do! Today our client received his green card! He is now a legal permanent resident! We won non-permanent resident cancellation of removal for him following a trial. These cases are very difficult to win, because you must demonstrate the person would suffer: “exceptional and extremely unusual hardship” in order to win. It is all about documenting the hardship, humanizing the client and his family, and presenting a compelling case. Thanks Lorena & Fabiola for all of your help! It’s all about teamwork!
After a trial before an Immigration Judge this week, our client, a Salvadoran national, was granted political asylum! Despite the Trump Administration’s efforts to gut the protections afforded to asylum seekers, there are still courageous Immigration Judges who follow the law. Not only will he never again be persecuted, but in a year, he will be able to apply to become a lawful permanent resident.
The 2nd Circuit Federal Court of Appeals has ruled that immigrants who missed the 30 day deadline for filing their notice of appeal from an Immigration Judge’s order of deportation, may be able to have that deadline equitably tolled, and to have their appeal heard on the merits, rather than have it dismissed. This decision offers hope to immigrants who have been ordered deported; who have otherwise meritorious appeals; and who missed the filing deadline despite their best efforts under the circumstances.
The Court’s decision in Attipoe v. Barr, involved an immigrant whose efforts to appeal his deportation order were frustrated by the Judge’s failure to provide him proper notice of his right to appeal; by the fact his detention by ICE limited his efforts to retain an attorney; and by his attorney’s failure to file his notice of appeal on time. The Court reversed the Board of Immigration Appeals’ determination that missing the 30 day filing deadline by even one day meant the appeal must be dismissed – even if the non-citizen had a winning legal argument, and even if the late filing was not the immigrant’s fault.
In Attipoe, the Court rejected the BIA’s use of such a strict deadline to dismiss an otherwise meritorious appeal. The Court directed the Board to formulate standards to determine when a late filed appeal should be subject to “equitable tolling”. The Court’s decision in Attipoe offers new hope for immigrants who diligently tried to appeal of their deportation order, but whose appeals were dismissed due to a missed deadline, and through no fault of their own.
If you, a family member, or a friend have been deprived of the chance to appeal a deportation order due to a missed filing deadline; and if the order was entered by a Judge sitting in an Immigration Court located in New York or Connecticut; then the Second Circuit’s decision in Attipoe may provide a way for that appeal to be heard, even if the filing deadline was missed, provided you can show the non-citizen act diligently in pursuing his rights during the 30 day period for filing the appeal, and in the period after the deadline and until actually filing a motion to accept a late filed notice of appeal. If you or someone you know has had their appeal dismissed through no fault of their own, contact our office to schedule a consultation so we may determine whether the protections of the Attipoe decision apply to you.
In November of 2019 DHS announced a proposed rule that would change the USCIS filing fees for immigration applications. On December 9, 2019, DHS posted a notice in the Federal Register indicating the overall fee increases. Comments to this proposed increase were due by December 30th, 2019. If the rule goes into effect many people will be paying substantially more for their applications.
If you are thinking of applying for immigration benefits such as citizenship, petitioning a relative (either adjustment of status or consular processing) or DACA renewal– it may be best to do so now before they increase the fees. Contact us for a consultation to review your case – we are here to help. Below is a sample of some of the proposed filing fee increases:
|Benefit Sought||Current Fees||Proposed Fees||Net Difference||% Change|
|Adjustment of Status||$1,225||$2,195||$970||79%|
For lawful “permanent” residents, a criminal conviction often means deportation, banishment from this country and permanent separation from their family and friends. Fortunately, the immigration laws provide the opportunity to seek a “second chance” for long term permanent residents with certain convictions. The first battle is to demonstrate our client’s eligibility for this relief; once that battle is won, the client must have a trial: referred to as an “individual” or a “merits” hearing, before an Immigration Judge, with a prosecutor who represents ICE.
With certain narrow exceptions, a conviction for any controlled substance offense renders a non-citizen deportable. As a result of the opioid epidemic, and the widespread use of marijuana, many permanent residents will be placed into deportation-removal proceedings as the result of mistakes made, often many years in their past.
It is important to have an experienced criminal-immigration attorney defending these types of cases. Many immigration attorneys know how to prepare family based petitions, but lack trial experience. They feel nervous in the courtroom and are unfamiliar with how to try a case. Others may have experience in Immigration Court, but have no foundation in criminal law and so do not understand the complex interplay between criminal and immigration law. Only an advocate experienced in both criminal and immigration law can guide you through these troubled waters. The Terezakis Law Firm has this expertise. Last week we won 2 trials in 3 days and brought our clients home. Most importantly, we convinced the government to accept the Judges’ decisions as final, and so our clients were spared the expense and uncertainty of an appeal.
In the first case, our client stumbled into a major narcotics conspiracy after doing a friend “a favor” by buying him some cocaine. He was one of 20 persons named in a 36 count indictment, which appeared to charge each defendant as a “Major Narcotics Trafficker”. Careful review of the 100 paragraphs which described the criminal conduct in the single count which named our client, revealed he was never charged as a “Major Trafficker”, and that only 2 paragraphs even referenced him: one involved his call to arrange the purchase, and the other, the purchase. Had we not clarified the minor and tangential involvement of our client at the outset of the hearing, it is unlikely the Judge would have ever considered the favorable evidence: our client’s history of working on the books and paying his taxes; his close and supportive relationship with his U.S. citizen children; his ties to his community; his modest lifestyle; his good moral character and his genuine remorse for his misconduct.
Our second client, also a permanent resident, was nearly rendered ineligible for cancellation of removal after his prior attorney negotiated a plea to an offense which would have been classified as a drug trafficking aggravated felony. Our client sought our counsel after pleading guilty to possession of a controlled substance, because he feared he might be deported. He had pleaded guilty to possessing cocaine, but was advised the specific subdivision involved possession with intent to sell – which would be considered a drug trafficking aggravated felony. Our review of his plea minutes established he never admitted any intent to sell, and so we were able to vacate his guilty plea. Our client ultimately re-pleaded to simple possession, as a felony, which preserved his eligibility for cancellation of removal.
By the time of his deportation hearing, 10 years had passed since his misconduct, and he never again violated the law. We submitted proof of his successful completion of a drug treatment program shortly after his arrest, as well as the results of six months of recent drug testing which confirmed he had indeed stopped using any drugs. We also documented his severe disability, due to a work related accident, with medical records and post-operative reports. In the end, his extensive family ties, the evidence of his rehabilitation, the severity of his disability, and his continued need for medical treatment in the U.S., tipped the balance and convinced the Judge and government attorney he deserved a grant of cancellation of removal. If his initial plea had not been vacated, however, he certainly would have been deported.
In each case, our client accepted responsibility for his actions; he pleaded guilty and served his sentence. Most importantly, we were able to demonstrate that on balance, our client deserved a second chance. At the Terezakis Law Firm, our experience in criminal-immigration law, and in trying these hardest of cases, ensures our clients have the best possible chance of being granted a second chance to remain in the United States. After all, what is more American than a second chance for someone who deserves it?