Our office specializes in trying to keep families together. Unfortunately, our government separates over 100 families of immigrants every single day-- 365 days a year-- deporting at least one parent and depriving a child forever of that parents presence. When we win cases fighting back this attack against families, it is especially joyful for us. This month’s case we are profiling involves a dedicated father who came very close to being separated from his wife and two sons. One of those sons is in college and depends upon his father’s income, while the other is in middle school and depends upon his father’s love. This is a family trying to achieve the American dream but almost been forced into bankruptcy and separation from a government that has lost its way.
Our client unfortunately had a drug possession conviction from 12 years ago. He had served a few days in jail for it . But now our government wanted to hand down a life sentence by exiling and deporting him from the United States, even though he’s lived an exemplary life since that sole conviction so long ago. He was randomly picked up at his house due to that conviction – – 12 years after he’d already served his punishment– – and put into removal proceedings. ICE would not allow him to have a bond, so he was locked up in detention at Otay Mesa.
At first the family thought that he had expunged that conviction from so many years ago, but we could find no evidence of that from his archives or from the court. That meant our office had to expunge the case in criminal court before the immigration court sentenced him to deportation. The judge in San Diego immigration court gave us very little time to do this. We sought and asked for an expedited hearing in Indio, California Superior Court. We successfully obtained the dismissal overturning his criminal conviction a few days before the immigration judge was going to deport him. At first, the ICE prosecutor did not want to accept the expungement. Apparently, it was the policy of this particular ICE office to ignore such expungements. After our office filed extensive briefing of the issues with the most current case law, however, the prosecutor to her credit accepted our arguments. She supported the dismissal of the case against our client, and our client was finally released. He now has his green card, his work permit and his family.
MORAL OF THE STORY
For immigrants with criminal background, even drug possessions, it is important that they have all the documents from that past episode of their life, even if it took place a dozen years ago. For immigration purposes, those convictions always remain on the book unless they are properly expunged and dismissed by a seasoned immigration attorney. Most criminal attorneys can get you a quick and cheap and easy expungement, but that expungement will be worthless in front of an immigration judge. Even if you’re not in proceedings, you need to prepare for the day that you might be. In this case, had we had all of the criminal documents from the day our client was picked up, we could have won this case a month earlier with a lot less stress and at a smaller cost.