Perhaps second only to criminal law, there is not another area of law where the consequences of losing a trial are so severe and life changing. Immigration law, in many ways embodies the execution of law in ways that very few areas do. This is so, because unlike most other areas of law, when it comes to immigration and specifically deportation, there are no negotiations, settlements or plea bargains, the immigrant either wins and stays or loses and is deported.
For those that do not know, there are certain crimes that subject a green-card holder to be deported, most commonly they are either a drug or a domestic violence conviction (among a long list of others). In some situations, the situations the applicant or respondent is eligible to ask for the removal proceeding to basically be cancelled based on hardship to himself and his family. In those situations, the natural and almost automatic reaction of someone who is facing removal proceedings for a crime that he has been previously convicted of [even if they voluntarily pled guilty to the charge] is to try to fight the conviction or allege that they were not advised of the immigration implication of their conviction; or worse yet, to try to tell the immigration judge that they were innocent of committing the crimes.
There are of course many cases and situations where fighting the underlying conviction or getting it reduced is best and most honest strategy to fight a cancellation of removal or a deportation case. But as a general rule one needs to be extremely cautious about adopting that blanket strategy for their case. As a matter of fact, it has the real potential of hurting a case instead of helping it. If my experience has taught me anything is that in deportation proceedings, full honesty is by far the best strategy. I have consistently found that instead of trying to minimize the crime or make excuses for it, coming out clean and admitting the crime, the effect it had and the later consequences is a much approach. Clients tend to forget that Immigration Judges do what they do for a living, and are extremely adept at figuring out who is being honest and who is not.
I have just finished representing an individual with numerous drug charges and theft convictions. Like most of my clients, when I first met him he was trying to make excuses and tell me that it was his friends that were getting him in trouble and that he was pretty much the victim of circumstances. I knew for a fact that if that was the mindset that he went into his trial with then he would be deported for sure. So I asked him to really reflect on his life and his actions and instead of making excuses, I asked him to tell me, why he did the crimes that he did, if he was proud of himself, and what he would change if he had the chance all over again.
After many discussions and visits (to his holding facility), my client finally broke down and told me his obsession with a particular sport that he played growing up and how an injury early in his college career permanently prevented him from playing that sport. Drugs became the only he knew how to deal with his depression and loss of purpose. The strange thing about that case was that after that point, the client no longer cared whether we won or lost. His detention in a holding facility for months, and the prospect of being deported back to country that he has not seen or visited for 30 years, forced him to think hard about his life and his choices. And in that process, he was able to achieve clarity, and a sense that from that point onwards he would end up okay, no matter where he lived. Needless to say, but his deportation (removal proceeding) went extremely well.
Besides accepting personal responsibility for your past actions, here are some other necessary things that you need to do to maximize your possibility of success in removal proceedings:
1) Fill out the Cancellation of Removal Application fully, truthfully and thoroughly. Take that process very seriously. If someone took the time to write the question, you have to take the time to answer it;
2) Don’t be afraid to reach out to friends and relatives and have them testify about your character. Please make sure that your friends or relatives also acknowledge your convictions, but state that your character has been reformed;
3) Submit as much evidence as possible: report cards, tax records, pictures, certificates all have the potential to make a difference, so make sure that you or lawyer are very thorough in that process;
4) Reach out to family and have them testify about all the ways that they need you;
5) Again, be fully honest and open about everything;
6) Try to have a comprehensive strategy about your case, be careful about having your witnesses state contradictory statements about you;
7) If at all possible, try to hire as a good of an attorney as possible. Deportation is a life changing event, so if you really do not want to go back home, then give the proceeding your all; and
8) DO NOT AGREE to voluntary departure (to short cut the process) unless you have every intention to go back to your country. Otherwise, you forfeit any future possibility of remaining in this country.