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United States District Court for the District of Maryland
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Bar Association of Montgomery County, Maryland

Immigration Case Summaries

August 31, 2015

Case Summary: Successful NACARA case with a criminal history

Imagine coming to the U.S. with hopes of achieving your dreams. You arrive here and in the midst of working hard, you fall in love, get married and have two beautiful children. Over time your marriage falls apart. Your spouse becomes abusive and abandons you and your children. You go through a divorce alone, trying to raise your two children during this difficult period. Your dreams are a distant past, nowhere in sight. Amidst all this difficulty, you find a person who understands you, trust and respects you. You begin a life with them, only to be placed in removal proceedings with the threat of not coming back for 10 years.

Our client, a native and citizen of El Salvador, was in the same predicament. He entered the U.S. in 1985 to escape the Salvadoran civil war in which thousands of civilians became victims. Upon entering the U.S. our client started working. He fell in love, had 2 kids and got divorced. He became the sole legal and physical custodian of his two kids. In the midst of his life, he was charged and convicted of 2nd degree assault in the state of Maryland. Several years later, and after turning over a new leaf, he met his beautiful wife who had two children of her own. They married and worked hard to build their blended family. He started his own business and gained traction in the community for being a pious God-fearing individual always looking to do good in the community.

After spending several years trying to build their blended family, our client was picked up by ICE. The basis of removal was a 2nd degree assault conviction from 2001. At his immigration court hearing the government argued that our client was ineligible for bond because of his conviction. We were successfully able to argue that this conviction is not an aggravated felony and not a bar to bond eligibility. The Judge agreed with our argument and granted bond, to allow him to be released from custody and to work and provide for his family.

At the merits hearing we argued for relief in the form of Special Rule Cancellation of Removal under NACARA. Section 203 of NACARA applies to certain individuals from Guatemala, El Salvador, and the former Soviet bloc countries who entered the United States and applied for asylum by specified dates or registered for benefits under the settlement agreement in the class action lawsuit American Baptist Churches v. Thornburgh, 760 F. Supp. 796 (N.D. Cal. 1991). If relief under section 203 of NACARA is granted, the individual becomes a legal permanent resident (green card holder) of the U.S.

Client had met all the base requirements for relief. All that needed to be considered was the individual’s good moral character and the hardship his family would suffer if he were to be removed. At the time of the merits hearing, our client not only had his own two kids, and two step children, he also had a newborn with his wife. The Judge considered not only the family, kids, their ages and schooling; he also considered our clients business and the testimony of community members attesting to his good moral character. We worked hard to persuade to Judge to consider all the positive factors in our client’s life such as his wife, who he has supported financially and emotionally; his children, biological and step, who he has taken on as his own responsibility; his community who he supports and cherishes; and his business and employees who he cares for. In considering all of these factors the Judge could not deny the fact that our client was a good man who had made a mistake in his past. What he also could not deny was the fact that he had taken on the responsibility for providing for all his children and that he was doing his best to ensure they are physically, mentally and emotionally healthy.

Our firm worked very hard and diligently to gather all the evidence necessary to support our client’s claim. With our help, our client will be allowed to stay in the U.S. with a green card. Our client can now hope to become a U.S. citizen to stay permanently with his family without fear of being removed from the U.S. He can make sure to care for and financially support his family, fulfilling his parental and spousal obligations to his children and wife. Another happy ending.

November 24, 2014

Case Summary: Conditions removed on green card despite short marriage

A permanent residence’s status is conditional if it is based on a marriage that was less than 2 years old on the day that person was given permanent residence status. A conditional green card is good for only two (2) years and then the person must remove these conditions by filing Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence. The removal of conditions can be done jointly, by both spouses, or unilaterally, by just the conditional green card holder. One way to remove the conditions unilaterally is the person must be able to prove that he or she did not get married only for the purpose of evading the immigration laws of the United States. In other words, the person must prove that the marriage was bona fide and not fraudulent.

Recently, a prior client came to our office seeking help in submitting Form I-751 to remove the conditions from his green card. He had obtained his conditional green card through his marriage to a US citizen spouse. He and his wife had gotten married for all the right reasons - they were in love and thought that they would be together forever. However, over a very short period of time their marriage deteriorated until they made the impossible decision to separate and ultimately to get a divorce. Our family law attorneys had represented the client in his divorce proceedings and now it was time for our immigration attorneys to step in and represent him in the next step.

Because the client was now divorced, in order to remove the conditions from his green card, our immigration attorneys would have to present enough evidence to convince US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that the client’s marriage was not fraudulent. The client and his wife had only lived together as husband and wife for about six months after marrying and on top of that, they separated less than one month after the client obtained his conditional green card. In the eyes of USCIS, these are two huge red flags that would support their contention that this marriage had been a sham. Removing the conditions from our client’s green card under these circumstances would have been an insurmountable task for someone attempting to do it on their own. However, our experienced and knowledgeable immigration attorneys knew just how to tackle this case and how to succeed.

Working closely with our client, our immigration attorneys collected evidence of the life that our client and his now ex-wife had built together. Unfortunately, the client did not have much evidence to support the fact that this marriage was legitimate. But, our attorneys were able to obtain evidence of joint bank accounts, proof that they were both on the same automobile insurance policy, and evidence of joint financial assets. The completed Form I-751 was sent to USCIS along with all of the supporting documentation that our attorneys had gathered.

Shortly thereafter, USCIS sent back a Request for Evidence commonly called an RFE. Essentially an RFE is just what the name implies – USCIS alleged that the evidence submitted wasn’t sufficient and additional information was needed. Knowing that the client had no additional proof of joint assets, joint policies, or the like, our immigration attorneys came up with an unorthodox idea. They went back to the client and requested that he gather up every piece of documentation that had anything to do with the actual wedding ceremony and reception.

The client was able to gather documents showing rental expenses for the day of the wedding, a receipt for the wedding cake, pictures of the wedding ceremony and the reception, receipts for the décor, food, and photographer as well as a copy of the invitation. Our immigration attorneys successfully argued that all of this additional documentation further supported the assertion that our client and his wife had a bona fide intent at the time they entered into the marriage and provided legal arguments to support the same.

From the invitation, the receipts, the pictures, the décor in the reception hall, the food, the wedding cake, the fact that they hired a photographer to capture all the special moments, and the fact that they had an invitation printed up – all of these things show that our client and his wife wanted to celebrate their union in a traditional way. Armed with all of this evidence, our attorneys successfully argued that if this couple had only gotten married in order to keep our client in the US, they would not have gone to all of the trouble of having a wedding and reception like the one they had. Even the photographs showing a number of guests in attendance make it clear that the couple wanted all the special people in their life to be aware of their union and to participate in their joyful day. In viewing all of this additional evidence, their intent to enter into a bona fide marriage could not be any more apparent.

After receiving this additional information, USCIS had no choice but to grant our client’s application and remove the conditions from his green card. Despite the fact that our client had several facts or red flags against him, our immigration attorneys were able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he and his now ex-wife had in fact entered into a bona fide marriage. If you or a loved one, need to file to have the conditions removed from a green card, contact our office today so set up a consultation. Our immigration attorneys would be happy to assist you in the same way they assisted this client.

March 15, 2014

Case Summary: Client Granted U.S. Citizenship Despite His Criminal Record

In May 2013, our experienced immigration attorneys were retained by a client who wanted to apply for his U.S. citizenship. Our client was a decent man who had been a Legal Permanent Resident of the U.S. (commonly known as a “green card holder”) for many years. He was very eager to become a U.S. citizen, and came to our office seeking advice on whether he was eligible. After conducting an initial evaluation, our knowledgeable attorneys concluded that he did meet all of the requirements for applying for U.S. citizenship. Our client was ecstatic and couldn’t wait for our attorneys to get started on his case.

However, soon after starting work on his case, our attorneys learned that the client had not told us the whole story. Despite being asked multiple times by our attorneys if he had ever been charged with a crime, he affirmatively answered “no.” After researching our client’s past history, our attorneys uncovered an extensive criminal record going back more than a decade. He had been charged and convicted of theft, possession of counterfeit money, with multiple DUI/DWIs. In addition, he had also been charged with battery and destruction of property.

That was not all. On top of his criminal record, our client also failed to disclose that he owed taxes to the state and the IRS. It was clear that our client had kept these things a secret because he was fearful that it would prevent him from becoming a U.S. citizen. Our attorneys understood and sympathized with why he had concealed the truth, but we also explained to him that we were on his side. In order for us to help him become a U.S. citizen, he would have to be completely honest moving forward. Our attorneys also attempted to alleviate his fears and explained that having a criminal record and owing taxes would not automatically mean that his dream of becoming a U.S. citizen was over.

From the moment the client retained our services, the strategy, as is the same with all of our clients, was to leave no stone unturned. This strategy did not change once we learned of our client’s past criminal history. As a result of our detailed work, we found that several of the prior arrests happened twenty years ago. We also discovered that our client’s convictions for theft and possession of counterfeit money had been vacated through post conviction relief. Luckily, our client’s last conviction was many years ago and his criminal record had been clean since that time.

As to the taxes that our client owed, we walked him through the process of contacting the relevant organizations and paying his taxes prior to his naturalization interview. He was happy to meet his tax obligations and to be free of the stress and worry that owing taxes might have prevented him from becoming a U.S. citizen.

Failing to fully disclose or omitting important facts on an application to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) increases the likelihood that a case will ultimately be denied, and this will also become a good moral character issue because the applicant lied to USCIS. Therefore, our office always advises all of our clients to be completely honest when dealing with USCIS. In this case, our attorneys detailed our client’s past confidently knowing that, in time, we would prove that he is a person worthy of becoming a U.S. citizen.

Our client’s chance to become a U.S. citizen was tested on the day of his naturalization interview. When the USCIS Officer asked our client about his criminal history, our immigration attorney rose to the challenge and advocated on our client’s behalf. He stressed to the Officer that our client is a person of good moral character despite his criminal record. After all, those arrests, charges, or convictions were either not prosecuted, vacated, or were beyond the time period that USCIS should be looking into. Mostly because of our immigration attorney’s strong advocacy, our client shined at his naturalization interview.

Recently, USCIS approved our client’s application for U.S. citizenship. Our client is now a proud U.S. citizen and is happy to join the millions of others in achieving this American Dream.

If you are dealing with a similar immigration problem and you do not know where to turn, contact the Law Offices of Anthony A. Fatemi as soon as possible to set up a consultation. Our experienced, qualified, and knowledgeable team of immigration attorneys will help you navigate the complicated immigration laws and support you through this difficult journey that you should not have to embark alone.

February 15, 2014

Case Summary: Client Approved For Her Adjustment of Status Application After A Lengthy USCIS Investigation Lasting 15 Months

Around fall 2012, our office was retained by a national of Cameroon to help attain her U.S. Lawful Permanent Resident Card (commonly known as a “green card”). The client had been previously granted political asylum and had been residing in the U.S. for more than ten years.

U.S. immigration law allows an asylee, like our client, to get their green card after one year of maintaining asylee status. U.S. immigration takes other certain requirements into consideration; for example, the applicant must continue to meet the definition of an asylee and continue to be admissible under U.S. immigration law in the U.S. After a detailed investigation, our knowledgeable team of immigration attorneys determined that our client did meet the requirements despite the fact that she had previously received public assistance in the form of food stamps. It should be noted that accepting public assistance, in certain forms, could make a noncitizen inadmissible because they may become a public charge in the U.S. Once our research was complete, we submitted the client’s green card application to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) in the fall of 2012.

Everything was going smoothly just as our experienced team of immigration attorneys had planned. Nonetheless, many months passed and we did not hear anything from USCIS. Our immigration attorneys stayed on top of USCIS, constantly checking whether there were any developments and inquiring why there was such a long delay.

Eventually, our persistence and tenacity paid off. Our attorneys uncovered a very important development. USCIS was delaying granting our client’s application because they wanted to make sure that her past involvement with an organization in Cameroon did not make her ineligible to receive a green card. It should also be noted that the client’s involvement in this organization was the very basis of her asylum application, which had previously been granted.

Our client was dismayed by what USCIS was doing. After all, with the help of our experienced and knowledgeable immigration attorneys, she had told the whole truth about her involvement with this organization on her green card application. She was also uneasy about USCIS digging deep into her past, and she worried that this would cause an additional delay. We spoke regularly to our client and reassured her that our immigration attorneys were here to help her get through this tough time.

Our competent team also maintained close communication with USCIS officers and the local USCIS office in Baltimore, Maryland. We advocated on her behalf before USCIS officers and frequently followed-up with phone calls, e-mails, and letters. After fifteen (15) months of strong advocacy, our attorneys’ persistence paid off.

Just recently, USCIS successfully approved our client’s green card application. Our client quickly received her green card by mail and is now a U.S. lawful permanent resident. She is on her way to applying for and becoming a U.S. citizen in the near future.

If you are dealing with a similar immigration problem and do not know where to turn, contact the Law Offices of Anthony A. Fatemi as soon as possible to set up a consultation. Our experienced, qualified, and knowledgeable team of immigration attorneys will help you navigate the complicated immigration laws and support you through this difficult journey that you should not have to embark alone.

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