Friday, September 17, 2010

Happy Ending

I love these stories, ones that have a happy ending.

In July of 2008 - I receive a frantic phone call from someone telling me about an ICE raid at his parent's home early in the morning. ICE Officers were executing an arrest warrant on his sister, a longtime LPR, who had been order removed, in absentia, in 2003. To make matters even worse, she was considered an aggravated felon, under immigration law, for a theft conviction in Alabama she plead to in 1995.

This is the posture that the case was presented to our office - (1) Final Order of Deportation; (2) Alien in ICE custody; and (3) No possibility of release as an aggravated felon.

The brother paid our retainer fee and we went to work.

First, we would need to get her deportation proceeding reopened - starting investigating the attorney she hired in Alabama. He was disbarred for cocaine and alcohol addition (plus stealing money from his clients for his habits). Filed a motion to reopen and rescind the removal order - which stayed the deportation until the Immigration Court ruled on the motion.

Another of the brothers, who still lived in Alabama, hired a local criminal defense attorney to reduce the criminal sanction under the threshold for an aggravated felony. Our client had been caught shoplifting a $25 item, plead to a class three misdemeanor and was sentenced to a one-year suspended sentence. She never spent a day in jail. However, the one-year sentence (even suspended) was the magic number for immigration to consider this an aggravated felony. In California, she would have been convicted of a Petty Theft, but this was Alabama. Under a Writ of Coram Nobis - the DA and the local Judge agreed to reduce the suspended sentence, nunc pro tunc, to 11 months and now our client was eligible to be released from ICE custody.

The Immigration Court in Atlanta granted our motion to reopen and rescind the removal order based on the ineffective assistance of counsel by the disbarred former attorney. We moved to change venue to San Francisco Immigration Court.

At the Individual Merits Hearing, we submitted the I-191, seeking relief under INA § 212(c) waiver, which the IJ granted.

Next we filed an N-400 Naturalization Application, which was recently granted and next Wednesday she will be sworn in as a U.S. citizen.

We took a criminal alien, under a final order of deportation, found to be an aggravated felon, and turned her into a U.S. citizen.

I love these stories.