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Is it better to imprison 9 innocent people and 1 guilty person or to free 9 guilty people and imprison 1 innocent person?


On December 11th, 2017, Akayed Ullah, a Bangladeshi immigrant who became a lawful permanent resident, strapped a pipe bomb to himself and attempted to conduct a terrorist attack in New York City.  Fortunately, the device detonated prematurely and he was the only person who sustained serious injury.  But many are calling for the cessation of constitutional rights in cases like Mr. Ullah’s.  Immigration attorneys and criminal defense attorneys understand the slippery slope of this argument and how dangerous it really would be to pick and choose who the constitution applies to and who it doesn’t apply to on U.S. soil.


What’s the big deal.  Why should “terrorists” be afforded constitutional rights like the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney?

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“…[a] date which will live in infamy…”

Excerpt of a speech given by President Roosevelt after the December 7th, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor


A dark stain on our nation’s history resonates profoundly in today’s immigration discussion.  Immigration attorneys throughout the country are passionately trying to hold back a surging tide of anti-immigrant sentiment, specifically toward the Muslim community.  Not only anti-illegal immigration sentiment, but also anti-immigrant sentiment, in general.  The United States has never been a country of “the good of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”  We have always been a nation that values, above all else, individualism.  No matter the cost, we have always held fast to the ideal that we will defend our individual freedoms to the last.  Yet, on December 7th, 1941, that national identity was sacrificed for “the greater good.”  Not only by the president and the legislature.  But by the highest court in the land, the United States Supreme Court.

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Consider this:  You are a Lawful Permanent Resident who has lived in the United States for nearly your entire life.  You have always been in the United States legally.  One day, you get arrested for a crime you did not commit.  Or maybe you did violate the law, but it was a very minor charge and you have never been in trouble before.  Like so many United States citizens in the same situation, you are offered a pretrial intervention program.  That is, the prosecutor diverts your case from the court system, has you perform some community service, pay some fines, maybe take a class, and if you complete all of the requirements, they drop the charges.  Under the laws of the State of Florida, you would even be able to get the charge expunged from your record.  After all, the law in this land of opportunity is set up to give people second chances when they make a mistake.  So, you enter the pretrial diversion program, do everything you were asked to do, successfully complete it, and the charges are dropped.  All is well, right?

Well, not according to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA).  In a recent decision, the Board of Immigration Appeals held that even if a case is referred to a pretrial diversion program and ultimately dropped, it can serve as a conviction for immigration purposes and be used as the basis for deportation.  What? How can that be? Here is the thought process:


What is the definition of a “conviction” for immigration purposes? 

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Violation of an Injunction for Protection is a landmine for non citizens.  If you, or a loved one, is not a United States citizen and have been served with an injunction or charged with violating an injunction, call an experienced immigration attorney for a consultation.  Here’s why:

The Immigration and Nationality Act includes a provision that makes a non-citizen deportable if they have an injunction for protection (aka restraining order) against them and the court determines that person violated the injunction by engaging in the conduct the injunction was meant to prevent.  INA §237(a)(2)(E)(ii)


What is an Injunction for Protection?

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adobe-spark-post-1As an immigration attorney, when I talk to my immigration clients about their future, the first thing I tell them is to become a United States citizen as fast as they can, if they want to spend the rest of their life in the United States.  I tell them to run, not walk, to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Office to file an N-400 Application to naturalize.  I pick up the bulky Immigration and Nationality Act and tell them they can have a bonfire and burn that book after they naturalize, because the Immigration and Nationality Act no longer applies to them.  They will become full fledged United States citizens with all the bells and whistles.  But with everything in life, especially in the law, there are exceptions.  And one of those exceptions is through a process called denaturalization.


What is Denaturalization?


Denaturalization is the process of undoing a person’s naturalization and stripping that person of United States citizenship.  This process is typically initiated pursuant to an allegation that the person obtained their citizenship through fraud or misrepresentation or that they were not eligible for naturalization.  It is very difficult for the government to denaturalize someone as the burden of proof is very high and it must be done in federal court.

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President Trump’s administration has recently changed a longstanding rule that has placed immigration lawyers on notice relating to a common occurrence in immigration law.  Many non-U.S. citizens enter the United States on Visitor Visas for many different reasons.  To visit family, to take a vacation, to see what the United States is like.  It is not uncommon for non-citizens find love and decide to get married to a U.S. citizen while in the U.S. on vacation.  While many may call this impetuous, it is not a situation that is confined to citizens and non-citizens.  The difficulty arises when you apply for a green card based on your marriage to a United States citizen when your marriage was within a short period of time after you entered the United States.  You could be denied a green card based on what is called “preconceived intent.”  So, how do you establish that you did not have preconceived intent to get married and stay in the United States when you entered on a temporary visa?  Well, the government has just made it a little harder with the implementation of the 90 day rule.  This rule replaces the old 30/60 day rule.


WHAT IS PRECONCEIVED INTENT?


Temporary visas are just that.  Temporary.  In order to obtain a temporary visa, you must establish that you intend to depart the United States by the time your temporary visa expires.  For example, if you have a visitor visa that is good for six (6) months, when you enter the United States, you must have the intent to depart the United States within six (6) months.  If the government believes that you intended to stay in the United States longer than your temporary visa at the time you entered, this is called preconceived intent.  Prior to entering the United States, you conceived the intent to stay longer than authorized.  If you have preconceived intent, this is a violation of your status.  The key issue for a determination of preconceived intent lies in what your intent was at the time you were admitted into the United States.  It is not preconceived intent if you change your intent after you were admitted.  For example, if you truly entered the United States simply to visit and intended to leave within the six months allotted under your visitor visa, but you fell in love and only decided to stay after you were already admitted, then this would not be preconceived intent.  Regardless of your true intent, however, the problem arises when you apply to adjust your status and obtain a green card based on the marriage to a United States citizen that occurred within a short period of time after your admission to the United States.  Immigration officials will not simply take your word for it.  They will look to outside evidence to establish whether they make a finding that you had preconceived intent.  Let’s take a look at the old rule that USCIS (United States Customs and Immigration Services) used to follow.

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Sometimes, there just is no relief in deportation proceedings that will allow the person to stay here.  Whether it’s because of lack of ties to the United States, lack of hardship to U.S. citizen relatives, criminal history, or other factors, you just may not be eligible under any provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act to remain in the United States.  No cancellation of removal.  No waivers. No asylum or withholding of removal.  Your immigration attorney has looked at your case from every angle and there just is no possible way to keep you here.  In those cases, there is often one last option that may have some very beneficial consequences.  It is called Voluntary Departure.  Florida immigration attorneys often request voluntary departure in the Orlando Immigration Court in both detained and non-detained cases.  So what is Voluntary Departure?


WHAT IS VOLUNTARY DEPARTURE?


Voluntary Departure is a form of relief that allows a person to leave on his or her own rather than under a removal (deportation) order.  Although, the person does have to leave the United States, it can have some really important benefits that help the person lawfully come back into the United States on a later date.

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Orlando immigration attorneys and Jacksonville immigration attorneys know the frustration of the Infopass system.  Appointments are few and far between.  When an appointment becomes available, there is a mad rush to reserve your spot.  Clients often get frustrated that an appointment cannot be made more quickly. And once an appointment is finally made, the answers are often not very useful.

There are few agencies that are more tightly wound in red tape than the United States Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS).  You can’t just pick up a phone and give them a call.  You can’t simply drop in and ask a question.  There is a process.  Not a very good process.  But there is a process.  If you have a question about your pending application or petition, you can set what is called an “Infopass appointment.”  An Infopass appointment is the vehicle you can use to get answers to your questions.  Unfortunately, you will often get vague or conflicting answers, but sometimes these appointments can be very helpful.

The most common use of the Infopass appointment is to answer the question, “What is taking so long on my application or petition?”  Customers often ask when a decision will be made.  Sometimes, simply having the Infopass appointment can jog the case the loose and get it back in line for a decision.  The adjudicator who you meet with at the Infopass appointment won’t be the adjudicator that decides your case, but they often can look up the status in the system, see where the file is, determine where in the process the case is, and offer other useful information.

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D33297D9-99FD-4694-B69E-241571194F03A person in deportation proceedings is eligible for a fraud waiver even when they are not specifically charged with a fraud based basis of inadmissibility.  The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently held that the Board of Immigration Appeals erred in finding that Mr. Acquaah was ineligible for a 237(a)(1)(H) fraud waiver because he was charged with having his permanent resident status terminated, rather than being charged with being deportable for committing fraud.   Acquaah v. Sessions, No. 16-3277 (7th Cir. 2017).  

Mr. Acquaah entered the United States on a visitor visa.  He was married to a citizen of Ghana at the time.  He divorced the Ghana citizen and married a U.S. citizen, who filed an petition on his behalf and he was able to obtain a conditional greencard.  Mr. Acquaah and his wife filed a joint petition to remove the conditions of the greencard, but they separated during the pendency of that petition.  INS denied the petition because he had failed to establish that the marriage was bona fide and the agency placed him in deportation proceedings.  While he was separated from his U.S. citizen wife, Mr. Acquaah remarried his Ghana citizen wife, who had received a greencard through the diversity lottery.  Mr. Acquaah, using the name Kofi Obese, applied for a second greencard, which was approved.

Ultimately, throughout decades of litigation, the government found out that Mr. Acquaah had two greencards and the agency charged him with two counts: 1) fraud or willful misrepresentation of a material fact sough to procure an immigration benefit and 2) termination of conditional residency based on marriage fraud.  The Immigration Judge determined that Mr. Acquaah was deportable because his conditional residency terminated.  The Immigration Judge further found that he was ineligible for a 212(h) fraud waiver.  The Board of Immigraiton Appeals affirmed the decision using its own rationale that Mr. Acquaah was not found deportable for fraud or willful misrepresentation count, and therefore he was not eligible for the 212(h) fraud waiver.

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If you are just a witness in an immigration case, you may think that you are safe from deportation and criminal prosecution, but under the Trump Administration, that is not the case. Increasingly, Department of Justice and Homeland Security officials have been calling for more criminal prosecutions and deportations in immigration-related matters. Even if you are not the person facing deportation in immigration court and you are only a witness, you could be in jeopardy.

When you testify in immigration court for a friend, family member or employee, you have to swear under oath to your testimony. If you lie during a hearing, you can be prosecuted for perjury or giving false statements to a federal official. If you admit to committing crimes or engaging in acts that can get you deported as a non-citizen, you can be criminally prosecuted, put in prison and even deported.

Under the Trump administration Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Attorneys and even Immigration Judges are becoming much more enforcement oriented and looking for cases where people admit to immigration-related crimes and grounds of removability during other non-citizen’s immigration cases.