Regarding Petitions to Remove Conditions in Tampa.
I am having my clients assert their 5th amendment right in more cases before Tampa CIS. It is clear to me that in many cases, CIS in Tampa is more concerned about proving fraud they believe to be there than in finding out whether or not a couple was really married.
Since I became a lawyer in 1996 I have advised my clients to cooperate with INS and then CIS requests for information and documents. But previously the requests were always reasonable, and they went to the heart of the issue of the case -- should the person before CIS get this benefit or not?
After 9/11, things started to change, and the CIS attitude towards the aliens changed -- for the worse. The individual officers did what they could, but it appeared that high up in the command structure, someone was making CIS get tough. Fraud became a huge deal (when it was not before -- it was just treated like fraud) and finding marriage fraud became a way of distinguishing oneself at CIS if one were ambitious.
The requests for evidence became more and more obnoxious and personal, and CIS began to believe that an absence of evidence proved fraud. Worst of all, the legal presumption an alien is entitled to after being in a marriage for two years after their green card is issued -- the presumption that the marriage was real -- has been ignored at the CIS level.
Marriage fraud charges were thrown around without much cause -- I had more than a few cases go to court where they were thrown out for lacking evidence. 751s are routinely denied in Tampa, and are then approved easily at court, where the rule of law still prevails.
CIS appears to think that a lack of evidence equals fraud, and it appears that now they use their interviews as chances to support their cases, not a chance to hear my clients. My clients deserve to be heard, and will not speak again until and unless they are heard.
I am happy to announce that I am incredibly interested in seeing how many people I can help in my too short life--and I am not meeting enough people. You will soon hear new and weird ideas about how I will figure out how to help more people --because I love my job. I like helping people live here without fear. I enjoy sticking my finger in the bully's eye once in awhile, for a good cause.
I will probably stop representing people involved in criminal acts or who show poor moral character. I do not want to be surrounded by these people in my office. No offense! And decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis, but this lawyer has been surrounded by bad people long enough.
Give me your poor, tired and huddled masses, yearning to breathe free!
You would think after doing this lawyer thing for awhile once could just coast, right? Name recognition and reputation are all you need, right? Wrong. I must admit that I have not been doing all I can to be the great lawyer I know I am. Today I renew my dedication to my career and my clients. Watch out CIS!
There is no bad news for current clients. Everything will continue to be great. But future clients will be evaluated carefully to make sure that they are right for my firm. I find that I work best with people who are invested in their future. Trying to help someone who refuses all help is frustrating.
It will be just as easy to hire a lawyer from my office for great immigration work. It will just not be so easy to hire me to handle your case. I will focus on a small number of extremely important cases, while overseeing the other cases in the office but leaving routine work for another attorney.
I have been doing this a long time. I know a great deal. But by pulling back and taking fewer clients as personal projects I will be better able to help all of the clients of my firm.
The world is beautiful, the air smells better, food tastes better, and I now wear pants that are six inches less around the waist than pants I wore just three years ago. I have been through some changes!
In 2007 I weighed 250 pounds on my 5'10" frame -- at last check I weighed 205. I am stronger, smarter, and more ready to help my clients than every before!
And this is good, because while the law may be getting nicer, CIS sure is not. Other lawyers used to be jealous that I worked in Tampa, where the relationship between lawyers and government was not at all contentious. This was good because with lawyers involved many more cases can be handled more quickly than without. I used to just try to make the ISO's job easy when I saw them. Those days appear to be over. It appears that CIS Tampa is no longer interested at all in what lawyers want or how we can help move cases along.
Even the most mild mannered lawyers I know are getting mad about the treatment our clients are getting in Tampa. It is not too much to ask that the people who work for the local CIS office do their best to do their jobs as quickly as possible. Lawyers help, we do not hurt. If CIS chooses not to work with us, they will find AILA lawyers to be a persnickety, nitpicky bunch. I am not sure that any dispute will end well, and I hope CIS comes around.
My client was pending removal to Egypt. He had been ordered removed following NSEERS registration in 2002 and his request for political asylum based on his status as a Christian who feared returning to Egypt was denied. The appeal was denied and my client filed two Motions to Reopen, but neither was successful.
He received what I call a “please come so we can arrest you” letter. He was represented by a well-respected area immigration attorney. This attorney was the kind of attorney I respect and trust. My advice would have been to never appear. Make them come get you if they want you.
This attorney told my client that he HAD to appear, and that his lawyer would fire him if he refused to go with him. In a similar case recently, another client got a letter like that. We did not appear and later received a letter to go to Immigration Court. There are times when reporting to Immigration and Customs Enforcement is a good idea – that was not one of those times.
Since my client appeared at that interview, he now has an ankle bracelet and is being forced to leave the US for Egypt on March 15, 2011. My client called me for a second opinion. He wanted to know what he could do. He understood that he could return to Egypt and come back based on his bona fide marriage to a US citizen, so long as the needed waiver of inadmissibility was granted.
My client was looking at Egypt with great fear. He knew that Mubarak was gone and that religious tensions could explode at any time. He watched the church bombing and the religious violence with great trepidation, and he had no interest in returning to Egypt, because he feared he might die there.
I told my client to tell his lawyer to file a Motion to Reopen. His lawyer refused, for reasons I do not understand. My client fired him and came to me. When I filed the Emergency Motion to Reopen and Stay, I could tell him that now he at least had a CHANCE of not leaving the US.
My client’s US citizen wife has a list of terrible maladies that should assist the BIA in making the right and correct decision. As I understand it, I need to show that there is a good chance that my motion will be successful to gain the stay.
I imagine that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers would let my client remain in the US no matter what the BIA does, but the deportation officers do seem quite relieved that my client has a lawyer looking out for him now.
UPDATE : My client’s Request for Emergency Stay was granted and he has a chance of remaining in the US for life.
The main thing that irritates me now about immigration law is the SHAME that my clients are starting to feel for being illegal. The cannot get IDs, they cannot work, if they talk to a policeman they might get arrested. It is no wonder I meet so many abused women in my practice, as they are all terrified that their US citizen husbands or boyfriends have the power to make them return home whenever they say.
Things have changed so much. When I moved to Florida, I have to admit, it bothered me to wait in line behind illegal immigrants to get my first Florida driver's license. We may have been too permissive then.
But now it seems we have gone overboard in the other direction. My practice, which used to consist of business immigration, family immigration and some deportation has become 50% deportation because so many people are being arrested, threatened and tormented for the "crime" of being born in the wrong country.
You would not believe how many nice aliens I know who are being (for lack of a better word) screwed with by the government because of indifference or sloth on the part of government employees. or because the letter of the law, interpreted harshly, suggests that maybe, maybe, they might be deported.
You would not believe the enormous jail we have in Florida (and there are more in other states) where we keep only NONCRIMINAL aliens who are facing deportation. Why do we lock up so many noncriminals who are a threat to no one? I do not know. Why do noncriminals face the toughest Immigration Judge in Florida? I do not know.
All of this is unfair, ridiculous, and unAmerican. It must change.
I actually met somebody today in my office who claimed that they came to see me because they read my blog and looked at my website. I actually had no idea that people read my blog or look at my website. I had always hoped, but had never dared dream that people would actually pay attention to what I was saying.
But now that I know that my bully pulpit reaches at least one person, I shall endeavor to post more material more often.
I'll talk today about one of my frustrations with immigration law. It is incredibly unfortunate that the decisions aliens receive regarding their applications for permanent residence or whether or not they will be deported depend greatly upon the officer or judge hearing their case, and the way they present their case. There are immigration judges who will almost never approve applications for cancellation of removal, and their immigration judges who are quite happy to grant those applications. Similarly, at USCIS, who your officer is for your interview can make a great difference in how your interview goes, and whether any innocent mistakes will be viewed as innocent mistakes, or as evidence of fraud.
One of the great benefits I give to my clients is that I know who the decision-makers are where we will go. I know the way different decision-makers think, and what evidence resonates most clearly with what immigration judge or immigration officer. That experience is invaluable to my clients.
I also believe the my clients benefit by sitting next to me when they make their applications. I think I have a good reputation as someone who tells the truth and tries not to take money unless the person who's giving it to me knows why he is giving it to me. When I present cases at CIS or the immigration court, the judges and the officers know that my clients will not be lying to them, because my clients don't lie. If they would like to lie, they need to find another attorney. I will help anybody to make the best of the truth. I will help nobody create "truth" to fit any given situation.