Three years ago, a woman came into my office feeling hopeless and helpless about her immigration case. She was a hardworking woman and a single mother of a young boy. She constantly feared being detained and deported because she had a removal order against her from 2002. She told me that she was supposed to go to the immigration court in Buffalo, New York, but that her 8-hour bus trip from New York City to Buffalo did not allow her to appear in court on time, and because she was late to court, the immigration judge had ordered her deported in her absence.
This woman’s United States citizen father had filed a visa petition for her back in 2001, which, if approved, would allow her to pursue lawful permanent resident status.
But, because she received an in absentia removal order, under the current immigration laws, she was barred from applying for any benefit for 10 years. This means from the date of her removal order in 2002, she was barred for 10 years (until 2012) from seeking any benefit, even if she was eligible.
The previous lawyers she consulted never told her about the 10-year bar. Maybe they didn’t know, even though it is one of the basic immigration laws. The lawyers took the woman’s money and told her that they would try to reopen her case. But they never filed any motions. Even if a motion was filed, it would have been denied due to the 10-year bar in place. The lawyers never told the woman what was going on with her case.
So, three years ago, when she came to see me, I informed her that she needed to wait until 2012 — when the 10-year bar passes — to ask the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) to join in a request to reopen her case, so that she can pursue her application for permanent residency through her father’s approved visa petition. She was a little disappointed to hear that she needed to wait, but she appreciated the honesty.
She said she wanted to work with me, and for the last three years, we worked closely together to collect relevant documents in her case to present to the DHS when the time was right. She had been misguided in the past by other attorneys, so I made sure she was always aware of what I was doing and why I was doing that for her case. I made sure she asked me questions if she had any. I worked with her father to prepare relevant documents on his behalf, since he had petitioned for his daughter, my client. I worked with my client’s friends and relatives to guide them in providing helpful documents for my client’s case. We worked to prepare the best possible motion package for when the time was right to file. And the time was right in the spring of 2012.
As soon as the 10-year bar passed, I filed with the DHS a proposed joint motion to reopen my client’s case. The motion detailed the circumstances of her failure to appear in court 10 years ago. The motion was supported by numerous detailed documents that my client and I prepared together. The motion painted a clear picture of why my client deserved to have her case reopened and why she warranted the opportunity to become a legal resident.
I did not expect to hear back from the DHS for a very, very, long time. However, less than one month later, I received in the mail a notice from the DHS lawyer in Buffalo, agreeing to join in the request to reopen my client’s 10-year old case! The DHS lawyer had no questions about my client’s case, as everything related to the case was properly addressed and discussed in the motion I had prepared and filed.
When I called my client to tell her the good news, she could not believe it. She was overly excited that after waiting 10 years, she will now have a chance to finally rest a little easier and not worry about being deported and separated from her son. She will now finally have a chance to pursue the opportunity to become a lawful permanent resident. She will now have a chance to care for her son and watch him grow up without the fear of missing important milestones in his life.
She and I will continue to work together on her journey to becoming a permanent resident! Nothing makes me happier than to see a client succeed with his or her immigration case!
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