Category Archives: Immigration Law – News, Recent Rulings and Victories

Updates to the Syed Ahmed Jamal Immigration Case

2/19/18 – 3pm
We hope ICE watches this video. No crimes, no violations of supervision, a father, a husband, a loved member of his community, the sole breadwinner with valid work authorization, a job to go back to and a stay in place. Keeping him in custody simply because they can.

2/18/18 – 3:45pm

We headed up for Syed's family to visit him, at the scheduled time today. Even though we called three times prior to…

Posted by Sharma-Crawford Attorneys at Law on Sunday, February 18, 2018

2/16/18 – 11:45am
Syed Jamal continues to be detained at taxpayer expense despite having valid work authorization, a job and being the sole bread winner. The family is attempting to visit him on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins visited with Syed’s wife and three children about the private bill she introduced Tuesday, seeking to aid Syed in his legal fight to avoid deportation.

The bill would make Syed Jamal and his wife, Angela Zaynub Chowdhury, eligible to receive an immigrant visa or to adjust their status to permanent residency upon filing an application.

Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins and the Family of Syed Jamal

2/15/18 – 9am
Thank you Dan Margolies from KCUR for your work to accurately timeline of the effort that Syed Jamal has made over the course of 30 years to remain legally documented and on a path to citizenship. Another example it’s not as simple as “why hasn’t he become a citizen,” and exhibiting “what has he done to try?”
Read the Article

2/14/18 – 7pm
Video of the press conference held earlier today outside the Platte County Jail, where Syed Jamal arrived at 2:30 and is being detained.

2/14/18 – 3:15pm
We have confirmed that Syed Jamal is back in KC, and being detained at the Platte County Jail. We will have a press conference outside the Platte County Jail at 5pm CST. 415 S 3 St, Platte City, MO 64079

2/14/18 – Noon
U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins has introduced a private bill seeking to aid Syed Jamal in his legal fight to avoid deportation.

The bill, which the Republican congresswoman introduced Tuesday in the U.S. House of Representatives, would make Jamal and his wife, Angela Zaynub Chowdhury, eligible to receive an immigrant visa or to adjust their status to permanent residency upon filing an application.

2/14/18 – 11am
CONFIRMED: Syed Jamal will be back in Kansas City this afternoon. He is coming home.

2/14/18 – 10am
Angie Ricono, an investigative reporter with KCTV5 News in Kansas City, addresses the complexities some immigrants face in the process of trying to legally become an American citizen. It’s not the same path for everyone, and it’s not as simple as “why didn’t they just become a citizen.”

Brian Johnson with KMBC also put together a piece addressing the same question, focusing on the difference for those who enter the US as students or workers under non-immigrant visas versus those that come in under immigrant visas.

Why Didn't Syed Jamal Apply for Citizenship?

Have you asked this question? 'After 30 years, why didn't Syed Jamal just apply to become a U.S. Citizen the legal way?' If you've asked the question, watch this video then share our report.So many of our viewers are asking it, so KMBC 9 got answers. We've complied all the facts from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, The State Department and Jamal's attorney to explain. Syed Jamal is a scientist and adjunct college professor at Park University who immigrated to the U.S. in 1987 from Bangladesh. He overstayed his visas three times. ICE arrested him on January 24th. Now he's in a jail in El Paso, Texas while an immigration judge hears from Jamal's attorney and attorneys from the Department of Homeland Security.The group Free Syed Ahmed Jamal has raised $42,000 through GoFundMe. They have gathered 77,000 signatures using They have sent hundreds of notarized letters to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and gathered support from members of Congress including Representatives Jenkins, Cleaver, Yoder and Senator McCaskill.Jamal's fate is now in the hands of Judge Glen R. Baker.Read more about our coverage of Syed Jamal at the following links.

Posted by Brian Johnson KMBC on Saturday, February 10, 2018

We sincerely appreciate these reporters and their stations for trying to not just report the news on the latest developments in these people’s stories, but also trying to help us educate the public on how truly complex, and unique each story can be.

2/14/18 – 9:15am
While our focus over the last week has been on Syed Jamal, it’s important for everyone to realize that there are many all over this country, facing our dysfunctional immigration system. This is the story of Carlos Alberto Bringas-Rodriguez, another one of our clients, also having gone through great struggles and confusion while trying to remain in our country legally.

2/13/18 – 6:10pm
We have two updates to share:

At 4:56pm today, a Motion to Change Venue was filed in the federal habeas case asking the Court to either send the federal habeas case to Hawaii or Order DHS to return Syed to Missouri so the court here can continue to hear the case. This was done because when a person is no longer in the jurisdiction, the federal court is at risk of losing jurisdiction over the case. Attorneys for the government have indicated they are coordinating efforts to bring Syed back to Kansas City, however the exact timing of that remains unclear. It is the hope of many that his return to Kansas City will be very soon.

The other development is that Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins, today introduced legislation known as a “private bill” to grant Syed and his wife lawful permanent status. While that process is time consuming, it is indeed an extraordinary event. Lawmakers from both sides of the state line continue to coordinate efforts and have shown eminence in leadership to support and protect this family.

2/13/18 – 3:45pm
Today has been quite the opposite kind of day from yesterday. Not much new development today. Syed is still in the Honolulu Federal Detention Center, and we are awaiting an update from his case worker on what the decision is with the new stay in place if he will be moved or not, and if so where. We’ll update you as soon as we have any news.

2/12/18 – 6:00pm
This is the video from this afternoon’s press conference. We know the plane he is on will stop in Honolulu to refuel. Due to the fact that is still US soil, because of the stay granted by the Board of Immigration Appeals, Syed Jamal will be pulled off the plane there. We will provide updates on where his next destination is once we get that information, which may not be until tomorrow.

Immigration attorney for Syed Jamal speaking about today’s update on deportation

Posted by William Joy – TV on Monday, February 12, 2018

2/12/18 – 4:30pm
The Board of Immigration Appeals has responded to our appeal and a motion for a stay of removal, it has been granted.

A report we received on Syed’s whereabouts is that he is on his way to Hawaii.

2/12/18 – 2:45pm
Outrageous! What we know is that Syed was taken from the West Texas Detention Facility at 5:51 AM (6:51am CST) by El Paso ICE ERO. At 11:45am CST we received the decision of the Immigration Court denying his motions and dissolving the stay. At 1:00 PM CST, we transmitted an appeal and a motion for stay of removal to the Board of Immigration Appeals. By 1:26pm CST the motion and the stay were docketed by the Board. As of this update, the ICE locator still lists Syed at the West Texas Detention Center even though we have reason to believe he is not there.

We have not formally or informally been notified as to where exactly Syed is currently located. We don’t know when ICE received the decision of the Court. And we do not know how such swift action by ICE could have occurred if all parties had been notified at the same time.

An attack on the system is an attack on due process.

2/12/18 – 1:30pm
At approximately 11:45 am CST we received word that Judge Baker denied the Motions pending before him and dissolved the Stay of removal previously issued.

At approximately 1:00 pm CST An appeal notice along with a fresh motion for stay was forwarded to the Board of Immigration Appeals in Falls Church Virginia.

We have been diligently using every resource we have to confirm Mr. Jamal’s whereabouts. We have learned, not as a result of ICE informing us, that he was taken to a plane at 5:50am this morning.

We will provide updates if and as we get more information.

2/11/18 – 11:30am
There is a local KC event this afternoon in support of Mr. Jamal and others. It is being hosted by the  KC Metro Immigration Alliance – KC MÍA. It is confirmed that Congressman Cleaver is confirmed to speak at the event.
When: 3pm CST
Where: All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church Kansas City, Missouri
Event Facebook Post

2/11/18 – 2am
We visited Syed Ahmed Jamal at the West Texas Detention Facility this evening. We were accompanied by Congressman Emmanuel Cleaver II. We went to ensure our client understood what was happening in his case and make sure he was being treated well.

Congressman Cleaver went to meet the college professor, who had never committed a crime, but who was taken into custody by ICE from his front lawn and in front of his child. The Congressman went to meet the man who was so beloved by his community and his family that they were fiercely rallying for his release. He also went to give support to a man in detention nearly 950 miles from the only place he considers home.

As they spoke Syed asked the Congressman how the Congressman’s wife was doing. And in that moment we all learned why so many people are vociferously supporting Syed. Because even in the face of such distress, Syed took a moment to focus not on his own predicament, but instead to ask this Congressman, who had traveled so far to provide comfort, how his wife was doing. Humility and grace in the face of adversity.

2/10/18 – 5:30pm
Congressman and Methodist minister, Emanuel Cleaver, and Michael Sharma-Crawford are en route to El Paso, Texas to visit Mr. Jamal. Watch our Facebook Page for posts once they arrive.
Representative Cleaver on a plane on the way to El Paso, Texas to visit Mr. Jamal.

2/9/18 – 4pm
At Noon today, DHS filed their Opposition to Syed Ahmed Jamal’s Motion to Rescind and Reopen his deportation case. The Opposition was based upon their belief that the deportation order was valid and that Mr. Jamal’s safety would not be at risk if he is returned to Bangladesh.

Once the DHS opposition is filed, it was imperative that we file our Response immediately, to ensure the Court would have all relevant information and arguments in order to make a decision on the filings. At 3:45pm today, the Response was filed.

At this point, the record is now considered closed and will be reviewed by Judge Baker, the immigration judge who granted the temporary stay on February 7th, and he will provide a ruling on the pending motions. The ruling will determine whether Mr. Jamal’s case can be re-opened in court and whether he should be deported or not. It is unknown how long the Court will take to review the matter, however, it is likely that a decision will come in the coming days.

The government also filed a motion to dismiss our filling on the federal habeas petition. That dismissal seems to indicate that since Judge Baker had granted a temporary stay, the federal court should allow the process to proceed only in front of him. While there are greater issues than simply the stay that are before the federal court, the Dismissal motion is being reviewed and a response will be timely filed in that matter. At this time, a Response has not been ordered by the Court but normal schedules allow for a Response to be filed on or before February 23, 2018.

2/9/18 – 12:30pm
We received word that DHS has filed the opposition to our filing. We’ll provide more information shortly.

2/8/18 – 5:30pm
Video of the call Syed Ahmed Jamal’s family received from Representative Cleaver this afternoon.

2/8/18 – 4:15pm

  • Syed Ahmed Jamal was was transported to the West Texas Detention Facility in Sierra Blanca, TX, where he will remain until Monday, February 12.
  • We have received a letter from Representative Emanuel Cleaver, II to President Trump regarding Mr. Jamal’s case.
    A letter from Representative Emanuel Cleaver, II to President Trump regarding Syed Ahmed Jamal's case.
  • Mr. Jamal’s family also received a call from Representative Cleaver this afternoon to assure them he is doing everything he can to help reunite them.Syed Ahmed Jamal's family talking to Representative Cleaver on the phone

2/8/18 – 11am
Rekha Sharma-Crawford and some of Syed Ahmed Jamal’s family members will answer all media questions at 1:30 CST today at a press conference at the Sharma-Crawford, Attorneys at Law Office, located at 515 Avenida Cesar E Chavez, Kansas City, MO 64108. Map

2/8/18 – 10am

  • An immigration judge has granted a stay for Mr. Jamal.
  • He is now in the custody of ICE officers.
  • At this time, he will not be deported, but the stay is temporary.

2/8/18 – 1am

  • We learned that Syed Ahmed Jamal was moved closer to the airport.
  • We filed in federal district court on a habeas petition.
  • We are asking the court to release him since he was taken into custody illegally.
  • The lawsuit is filed in the Western District of Missouri.

2/7/18: Press Release
Kansas Chemistry Professor and Community Leader Turns to the Immigration Courts

Kansas City, MO (February 7, 2018) Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials took into custody Syed Ahmed Jamal, a husband, father of three, chemistry professor and community leader, on January 24, 2018. Mr. Jamal is detained at a Morgan County, Mo. jail while awaiting an immigration judge’s decision on granting a stay of removal. The motions for a stay of removal and to rescind a final deportation order were filed with the court and served on Department of Homeland Security (DHS) attorneys on February 5, 2018. They remain pending.

Mr. Jamal has deep ties to the United States having come to America from Bangladesh over 30 years ago on a student visa. He was granted an H-1B visa for highly skilled workers and then transitioned to another student visa when he enrolled in a doctoral program. Despite his efforts to secure permanent status in the US, he found himself in removal proceedings. He was advised by an attorney that he was only eligible to leave the country voluntarily, despite his fear of returning to Bangladesh. His failure to depart caused the triggering of an automatic deportation order. Mr. Jamal obtained his work permit after DHS placed him on an Order of Supervision (OSUP). OSUPs are given to individuals so that they may remain out of custody despite the existence of a deportation order. They allow individuals to obtain employment authorization from DHS.

At the time of Mr. Jamal’s arrest in January, he was an adjunct chemistry professor at Park University in Kansas City and was conducting research at area hospitals. Without a stay of removal, Mr. Jamal remains at risk of being deported from the U.S. as soon as early next week and before the Immigration Court can review the matter. In accordance with the February 20, 2017, Kelly Memorandum, Enforcement of the Immigration Laws to Serve the National Interest, it is unlikely that ICE officials will exercise prosecutorial discretion in releasing Mr. Jamal from jail or allowing him to remain in the country.

“Only an immigration judge has the authority to cure the defective proceedings. At the very least, Mr. Jamal is entitled to a proper hearing resulting in a proper order,” states Rekha Sharma-Crawford, Mr. Jamal’s attorney. “This is about the rule of law and the integrity of a system. If we allow flawed orders, which would never be tolerated in any other legal proceeding or in society in general, to be the basis of removing a beloved father, husband and community member, it is a bigger threat to the system than this one case. To tear apart a family and drag them out of a country after having such meaningful ties, is a tragedy, plain and simple.”

“The law requires that certain formalities be met in order to grant voluntary departure. This responsibility is placed, by the rule of law, on the judge and not anyone else. Where a judge fails to carry out this important duty, the order is invalid. This is true in every area of law. For example, parties can agree to get divorced, but a judge must still follow the law and enter a valid order, which can satisfy the legal requirements. The same is true for Mr. Jamal. Deporting a person when the order is not legally sound is a threat to the system. That is not what the American legal system stands for,” says Sharma-Crawford. “DHS could recognize the legal issues at play and agree to either stay his removal pending completion of his legal proceedings, or they could agree that the order is flawed, and let the case proceed as a matter of course. What they will do remains to be seen. In the meantime, a family remains divided and his wife and children struggle every day without him.”

Contrary to what ICE had indicated, Mr. Jamal was not charged with or convicted of any crimes, misdemeanor or otherwise. Sharma-Crawford says, “This is another American story turned into a nightmare by the current divisive climate regarding immigration. It sends a false message that immigrants are criminals and detrimental to America.” ICE statements also have indicated that Mr. Jamal appealed his case. The Board of Immigration Appeals (Board) reviewed his case based on their “certification” authority, and as such, to call it an appeal is a mischaracterization of what occurred.

Several members of Congress show a willingness to maintain a sense of humanity in the immigration debate. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (MO), Rep. Kevin Yoder (KS), and Rep. Ro Khanna (CA) voice their concerns about the methods ICE used in this instance. “Children should never have to watch immigration officials forcibly take a parent from their home. The damage the Agency is doing to the next generation is profound,” Sharma-Crawford states.

Know Your Rights in Case of an ICE Raid / Conozca sus derechos en caso de una redada de ICE

Under the direction of President Trump’s Administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) reportedly plans to direct immigration officers to arrest and detain undocumented individuals throughout the U.S. Under the administration’s executive orders, many undocumented individuals could be considered priorities for arrest and detention. There are already reports of increased arrests and activity by ICE. Individuals with prior deportation orders, criminal convictions or even pending criminal cases are especially at risk of being arrested and detained. Based on the language from the current administration, we expect ICE raids at houses and work places to increase.

Bajo la dirección del nuevo Presidente Donald Trump, la Administración ,Servicio de Inmigración y Control de Aduanas (ICE) tienen planeado dirigir las funciones de inmigración para arrestar y detener a personas indocumentadas en todo los EE.UU. la administración de órdenes ejecutivas, muchos indocumentados podrían ser considerados prioritarios por arresto y la detenciones hay informes de un aumento de las detenciones y la actividad por el ice

If you or someone you know is undocumented, be prepared for these increased arrests and raids and understand your rights:

Si usted es indocumentado y tiene familiares y conocidos en la misma situación se les recomienda estar informados acerca de los nuevos arrestos y redadas de ICE. De igual manera usted debe saber sus derechos:

  • If officers come to your home, do not open the door. First, ask the officers (through the door) to show you their identification AND a warrant. If they do not have a warrant, do not open your door! Even if they say they have a warrant, do not open the door. Ask for the warrant to be slipped under the door for you to inspect. If there is a warrant, try to determine if it is a warrant for your arrest, or is a warrant to search your home. ICE is not allowed to enter your home without a search warrant, issued by a court. If they do not have a warrant, we recommend that you do NOT open your door, and do NOT give them permission to enter – if you let them enter without a warrant, you lose some of your rights.. If they do have a warrant that allows them to search your property, you must let them in; if they have an arrest warrant but not a search warrant, you may want to go outside to meet them – you do not have to let them into your home, and you do not have to let them search you or your homes
  • Si los oficiales vienen a su casa, no abra la puerta. En primer lugar, pedir los oficiales (a través de la puerta) que le muestre su identificación y una orden de detención. Si no tienen una orden, no abra la puerta! Incluso si dicen que tienen una orden, no abra la puerta. Pregunte por la orden y que se deslizó bajo de la puerta para que lo inspeccione. Si hay un mandamiento, intente determinar si es una orden para su arresto, o es una orden de allanamiento para su hogar. (ICE) no está permitido entrar en su casa sin una orden de cateo, dictada por un tribunal. Si ellos no tienen una autorización, le recomendamos que no abren la puerta de su casa, y no les dan permiso para entrar – si se les deja entrar sin una orden, usted pierde algunos de sus derechos. Si ellos tienen una autorización que les permite buscar su propiedad, hay que dejarlos ; si tienen una orden de arresto, pero no una orden de cateo, usted puede ir afuera a reunirse con ellos – usted no tiene que dejarlos entrar a su casa, y no tiene que dejar que ellos, buscan en su hogar o a usted.

  • You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to consult a lawyer before answering any questions or signing any documents. If you are arrested, recite this statement: “Pursuant to INA 292 and 8 C.F.R. 1240.42, I respectfully decline to answer any questions. I respectfully decline to sign any documents until I have spoken with my attorney.”
  • Usted tiene el derecho a permanecer en silencio. Usted tiene el derecho a consultar a un abogado antes de contestar preguntas o firmar cualquier documento. Si usted es arrestado, recite esta declaración: “de conformidad con la Ley INA 292 y 8 C.F.R. 1240.42, respetuosamente negarse a responder a cualquier pregunta. Yo respetuosamente declinó firmar ningún documento hasta que he hablado con mi abogado.”

  • Do not answer any questions. Do not tell them where you were born, or how/when you entered the United States. Do not sign any documents without consulting a lawyer first.
  • No contestar ninguna pregunta. No le diga donde naciste, o cómo/cuando entró en los Estados Unidos. No firme ningún documento sin consultar a un abogado.

  • Do not consent to letting any officer search you or your home.
  • No de su consentimiento para permitirles buscar usted o su hogar.
  • Do NOT show them any identification documents that show what country you are from, and NEVER show them false identification documents!
  • No demostrarles nigun documento de identificación que muestran qué país sois, y nunca mostrar documentos de identificación falsos!

  • Even if you do not have an immigration attorney, you have the right to contact one. Getting arrested by ICE does not mean the end of your case. Discuss this with your family and friends now, and make sure they have the numbers for good immigration lawyers that they can call in case you are arrested.
  • Incluso si usted no tiene un abogado de inmigración, usted tiene el derecho a ponerse en contacto con uno. De ser detenida por ICE no significa el final de su caso. Hable de esto con su familia y amigos, y asegúrese de que tengan los números de buenos abogados de inmigración que puedan llamar en caso de que sean detenidos.

  • Have a list of phone numbers written down so you can take them with you if you are arrested. You have a right to make one free telephone call after you are arrested.
  • Tenga una lista de números de teléfono escrito para que usted pueda llevarlos con usted si usted está detenido. Usted tiene derecho a hacer una llamada telefónica gratuita después de que son detenidos.

  • Keep records proving your presence in the U.S., including leases, pay stubs, bills, or any other documents with your name, date, and address in the U.S. These records should be kept in easily accessible place in your home. If you have been in the U.S. more than two years, be prepared to state when you entered the U.S.
  • Mantenga registros demostrando su presencia en los Estados Unidos, incluyendo arriendos, comprobantes de pago, facturas, o cualquier otro documento con su nombre, fecha y dirección en los EE.UU. Estos registros deben estar  en lugares accessible  en su hogar. Si  ha esta dentro de los EE.UU. más de dos años, debe de estar dispuesto a declarar cuando entró en los EE.UU.

  • If an order of deportation was entered against you in absentia (meaning the order was issued against you by an immigration judge without you being present) you may have the right to file a motion to reopen that order and possibly prevent deportation. Be sure to consult an immigration lawyer about this.
  • Si una orden de deportación fue introducido en rebeldía contra usted(es decir, la orden fue emitida contra usted por un juez de inmigración sin que usted se presente) usted puede tener el derecho a presentar una moción para reabrir esa orden y posiblemente prevenir la deportación. Asegúrese de consultar a un abogado de inmigración acerca de esto.

  • If you have a fear of being harmed in your home country, tell the immigration officers immediately. You may have the right to speak to an asylum officer to determine whether you qualify for asylum or withholding of removal.
  • Si usted tiene un temor de ser perjudicados en su país de origen, dígale a los funcionarios de inmigración inmediatamente. Usted puede tener el derecho de hablar con un funcionario de asilo para determinar si usted califica para asilo o la suspensión de la extracción.

Here is an link to a National Immigration Law Center explaining your rights at home and work in case of an immigration raid:

Aquí hay un enlace a un National Immigration Law Center explica sus derechos en el hogar y el trabajo en caso de una redada de inmigración:

An immigration attorney packs a suitcase made of silver and brown leather beore boarding an airplan to travel abroad

An Immigration Attorney Abroad

Being an immigration attorney, one gets to meet people from all over the world. The lives of our clients provide a unique opportunity to be aware of world cultures and world events. Often the things that divide us and the things that uplift us are more shared than not. The desire to provide a safe, loving environment for our families, the need to be able to trust our governments, the hope of a better future for our children and the dream of calling a small part of the earth as our very own, all connects us in ways that we are often quick to overlook. And yet, when it comes to the immigration debate, we cut corners and allow the news media, the politicians and our own insecurities drive the narrative. One reason for this may be that many Americans never venture outside of the US. That really needs to change.

Traveling the world is a remarkable thing. Little else provides such prospective. These journeys provide the opportunity to understand that there is room for celebrating both assimilation as well as differences. An added, yet important, benefit is that American travelers are provided a glimpse into how other countries view the U.S. Understanding how the world views us is essential if we are ever going to get past our current state of affairs: a government that does not function, a media that does not inform, systems that do not value education, the elderly, the poor or our military vets. The residents of countries abroad all ask, “how long can they let this continue?”

Stepping out of the U.S., it becomes evident that there are countries where the right of the people and the work of the government seem more aligned. In those places the government works for the people and the people demand more of each other. While no country is perfect it is refreshing to see courtesy, respect and understanding from, individuals, corporations and the government itself.

There are immigrants in every country. Traveling abroad promotes an understanding that the dreams we have are really no different from one another. It also shows that there are a variety of immigration systems that may provide an answer to America’s broken immigration system. Systems that value cultural diversity while setting up an orderly and timely process that allows individuals to avoid reacting out of desperation. People, as a general rule, want to do the right thing, in the right way, for the right reasons. That need is in our global DNA.

Writing this from half way around the world, it seems clear that America has lost its way. Sitting in a nation where the headlines are more concerned about the well being of its people as opposed to the most recent Kardashian crisis, America has much to ponder.

When Opportunity Knocks, Answer the Door

For the last 10 years, the people have waited. Waited for Congress to provide a solution for the millions in need of immigration reform. Families have waited. Businesses have waited. And yet, still, nothing. It is unlikely that relief is coming any time soon.

The reality is that there is no simple solution to the immigration law controversy. The world is facing a refugee crisis that includes millions of people who cannot return home. Gangs, poverty, extremists and corruption become inescapable shadows for a people searching for a safe haven. Despite the humanitarian emergency, countries struggle to find answers.

In the US, immigration has always been an issue that is used by politicians to divide. Each generation of immigrants that arrives, rushes to try and pull the bridge up behind them. Despite being a nation of immigrants, the US is at constant war with its identity. The reasons behind this disharmony are deeply rooted and complicated.  And yet, when opportunity knocks, even ever so softly, so many fail to answer the door.

In 2012, frustrated with yet another stalled Immigration bill, the President mandated that certain people who were brought to the US as children, if they met the criteria, be shielded from the threat of deportation. This relief, commonly referred to “DACA”, guaranteed work authorization and an opportunity for a stable life. With the ability to obtain work, a social security card and a driver’s license, it gave DACA eligible individuals their identity.

Over half a million people came out of the shadows into the light. Contributing to the economy and their communities, they finally had a tangible glimmer of hope. And yet, so many, many more, simply did not apply. It makes little sense.

Sometimes opportunity only knocks once. The next election is about 13 months away and as the clock ticks down the Obama Presidency, the future has never been so uncertain. With so many unknowns, those who remain DACA eligible but still have not applied, need to act quickly. Those who remain unsure or unconvinced, need to seek out the help of an immigration lawyer or a competent immigration law firm and seek answers.  Time is running out.  When opportunity knocks, open the door. Opportunity may just be about to leave.

Supreme Court Reverses Deportation Decision for Possessing a Sock

Court rules defendant cannot be deported for “sock” possession, supporting trend to protect lawful permanent residents from strict immigration law punishments and deportation.

On Monday June 8th Sharma-Crawford Attorneys at Law saw their legal theory and years of groundwork it invested in the Mellouli v. Lynch case justified. The Supreme Court reversed the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) decision to deport Moones Mellouli, a lawful permanent resident with deep ties in the U.S. Ginsburg, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, C. J., and Scalia, Kennedy, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, JJ., joined. Thomas, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Alito, J., joined.

“My initial reaction is that The Supreme Court’s decision is a continuation of a promising trend to limit the review of conviction records, protect the due process rights of immigrants, and protect them from the often harsh punishments of immigration laws,” states Rekha Sharma-Crawford a partner in Sharma-Crawford Attorneys At Law, LLC, an immigration law firm based in Kansas City, Missouri.

Mellouli v. Lynch centered on critical legal issues: what crimes make a lawful permanent resident deportable and how a court should make that determination based on conviction records.

Moones Mellouli was facing criminal charges brought on after he was stopped for a DUI. During the booking process, police allegedly found four Adderall pills located in Mellouli’s sock. He retained the service of a criminal defense attorney to assist. The criminal defense attorney, mindful that non-citizens face very different consequences than citizens when it comes to criminal charges, contacted Rekha Sharma-Crawford, and Sharma-Crawford Attorneys At Law, LLC became involved.

Mellouli, a green card holder, faced the potential for unraveling his status and life in the U.S. solely based on those four pills.

“Working with defense counsel, we worked to craft a plea agreement that was just and fair given the conduct and other mitigating factors. The prosecutor agreed. Mellouli was convicted with a single count of possession of paraphernalia, namely, his sock, a misdemeanor under Kansas law,” explains Rekha.

Based on this conviction, DHS still believed that Mellouli was subject to deportation. To be a deportable offense, the conviction must relate to a controlled substance listed on the federal list of controlled substances. But, the documents in Mellouli’s criminal case did not identify the drug type involved.

“Since Kansas has some substances on its list of controlled substance that are not on the federal list, we argued that Mellouli could not be deported, and he should be able to stay in the U.S. as a permanent resident. The immigration court did not agree,” says Rekha. “We appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals. We lost again. Undeterred, we appealed the case to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, the appropriate appellate court based on where the immigration court is located.”

The Eighth Circuit again sided with DHS in saying that deportation was proper for someone who was only convicted of possessing a sock so long as the sock had anything to do with a controlled substance.

Rekha states, “We did not think any these decisions were correct. We believed that given the specific language of Mr. Mellouli’s conviction and the existing case law, DHS had not met its requirements under the law. We pushed forward.”

Similar arguments have been written about and debated at length, and cases are argued often in the circuit courts of appeal. However, only 1 percent of petitions filed with the Supreme Court are accepted for oral argument. From June 30, 2011 and July 2, 2012, 7654 petitions were filed with the Supreme Court; only 66 were accepted. The Mellouli v. Lynch case, which began in a small Johnson County courtroom and experienced several defeats in lower courts, was one of the very few argued in the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Often times the cases that make the cut have been deliberately and methodically nurtured along the way. We enlisted the help of the Kate Evans at the Center for New Americans, a nonprofit organization at the University of Minnesota. Everyone worked hard, narrowing the arguments to present in the most compelling way. People and organizations around the nation wrote amicus briefs, helped edit the Supreme Court briefs and worked to prepare Jon Laramore for the argument. With so many working together, we were hopeful that the Supreme Court could be convinced to hear the case despite multiple losses,” explains Rekha.

The Supreme Court’s reversal of the DHS’s decision to deport Mr. Mellouli for sock possession supports the trend to protect lawful permanent residents from strict immigration law punishments and deportation. While the ruling of the case’s outcome was positive, the fact that the case made it all the way to the Supreme Court after so many defeats is a victory on its own and for immigrants.