Winning Aggravated Felony Deportation-Removal Cases

gavel and US flag

Winston Churchill said we should “Never Surrender”, and he was right.

Too often attorneys see a non-citizen, especially a lawful permanent resident, who is charged with an aggravated felony conviction, and they simply turn the case away because they believe nothing can be done for the person, but that is often just not true. Sure, aggravated felony cases are the hardest to win, but the reality is they can be successfully defended, although we can’t win them all, we have saved many clients with seemingly hopeless deportation-removal cases.

We realize even good people sometimes make serious mistakes. Often they’ve accepted responsibility for what they’ve done. They’ve pled guilty to a felony, served a prison sentence, and in many instances have gone on to change their lives for the better. Then one day there’s a knock at the door, the person is taken into custody by I.C.E. and they face the true terror of deportation proceedings: mandatory detention, immigration court, and the threat of being deported and separated from their home and families. In many cases, the person came to the U.S. as a child. They have had no contact with their native country and have no prospects for employment. They face a life of misery and isolation if deported, and their families in the U.S. will also suffer. That is why it is so important to fight these cases, and to win. Here are some recent examples.
Our client’s parents lost one son to drug addiction, and faced the deportation of their remaining son due to his conviction for burglary, and his sentence to two (2) years in prison. We made winning, technical, legal arguments which overcame the charged burglary and “crime of violence” aggravated felony grounds of removal. The Immigration Judge terminated the removal proceedings, and the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) dismissed the government’s appeal.

Another client charged with possession and sale of cocaine, pleaded guilty to these felony charges as part of a “drug treatment” program, with the understanding that if he completed treatment, his guilty pleas would be vacated. Even though the charges were ultimately dismissed, I.C.E. argued he had an aggravated felony conviction for immigration purposes, and the BIA affirmed his deportation order. We obtained a stay of removal before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals to prevent our client’s deportation while we pursued his Federal Court petition for review. We convinced the Court of Appeals the BIA’s reasoning was flawed: they vacated the deportation order and “remanded” or sent the case back to the Immigration Judge. We obtained our client’s release from custody and a stay of deportation during the proceedings. We ultimately convinced the Immigration Judge our client never had a “conviction” for immigration purposes, and his deportation-removal proceedings were terminated. The government did not pursue a second appeal.

Another client who came to this country as a child, had a single felony conviction for robbery. He was sentenced to two years in prison, and during that time completed an intensive, “boot camp” style program of rehabilitation. We told the Immigration Judge our client had been the victim of ineffective assistance of counsel, in violation of the Supreme Court’s decision in Padilla v. Kentucky, because his defense attorney never warned him his conviction would be considered an aggravated felony and result in near certain deportation. The Immigration Judge denied our request to adjourn the proceedings so we could apply to vacate his conviction under Padilla, instead he ordered him deported. Our appeal to the BIA was denied, so we appealed to Court of Appeals. We obtained a stay of removal to keep him from being deported, and ultimately vacated his sentence in the criminal court. We then had him re-sentenced to probation, and as a result, we eliminated his aggravated felony conviction and his aggravated felony deportation charges were withdrawn by the government so that he is now eligible for cancellation of removal as a lawful permanent resident.

A final example. Our client pleaded guilty to a felony drug sale. It looked like a slam dunk case for the government. We argued that under the Supreme Court’s recent decisions in Moncrieffe and Descamps, the government’s proof was legally insufficient to prove our client had been convicted of a “drug trafficking” aggravated felony. The Immigration Judge ordered our client’s removal; we appealed to the BIA, and the Board affirmed the Judge. We filed a petition for review with the Court of Appeals and obtained a stay of removal, and ultimately convinced them the reasoning of the Immigration Judge and the Board was erroneous. The Court vacated the deportation order and remanded the case back to the BIA for reconsideration, with the consent of the government’s attorneys. Our client remains at liberty and continues to fight his deportation.

We don’t “dabble” in criminal-immigration and deportation-removal defense: it is what we do, everyday. We have successfully defended hundreds of deportation-removal cases, at the trial and appellate level. That is why former clients, other attorneys, judges and community leaders refer people with complex criminal -immigration issues to our firm. We fight for our clients and their families, and we don’t surrender.

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