Sharma-Crawford, a firm specializing in immigration law, recently won a significant victory in a pro bono withholding of removal case. When the judge granted our client’s withholding of removal, he also sent a message to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that it should protect its named witnesses in federal criminal cases.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) operates like any other law enforcement agency in that it uses informants to substantiate cases. In exchange for their testimony, informants or witnesses are offered work cards in order to remain in the U.S. The relationship between informants and Immigration is much like at-will employment. The work cards represent the informant’s pay, and once their “job” of providing testimony is done, so is the benefit of their work card.
In this case, the client was a named witness for the DHS in a federal criminal case. Because he was a named witness, he received threats against this life and his family was victimized in their home country. In spite of these conditions and despite the fact they had promised the informant more work cards; DHS failed to act when the client attempted to reenter the U.S. with expired documents and was turned away.
Long story short, the judge was aghast at this lack of witness protection and sent a message via his withholding of removal. A withholding of removal is when an immigrant is ordered removed from the U.S. but that order is withheld because he or she would be persecuted in their home country. The message to DHS was that this client was their informant, he was in danger and they have a responsibility to protect him even after the federal case ended.
Our client is able to remain in the U.S. now with a work card, renewable annually. As his immigration lawyers, we were able to convince the judge that he fell into one of the five groups eligible for asylum (race, religion, nationality, political opinion and group membership) and his fear of persecution in his home country was reasonable. The client was considered part of a social group (informants) and in danger of persecution since he was a named witness.
This case was victorious and significant for two reasons. One, the judge did the “right” thing in withholding our client’s removal. More than likely, the ruling saved his life. Two, our client supplied his immigration lawyer with the relevant information we required to represent him. He did so simply, honestly and without exaggeration. His statements remained unchanged the first time and every time after that including at trial.
Considering the real risk for retaliation against witnesses, the judge’s response and actions are encouraging. DHS should heed this recent ruling by following through on its promises of work cards, and thus protection, since these immigrants have little else by way of defense.
ICE has never made an official admission of using undocumented immigrants as informants. Yet it’s common practice. These informants give authorities information they need to build and prosecute criminal cases from human and drug trafficking to arms smuggling and money laundering.
All the while immigrant informants are putting their lives at risk in hopes of being rewarded with legal status—that is rarely granted. The number of illegal informants is unknown, but believed far higher than the number of visas that lead to a green card. When law enforcement agencies are using undocumented immigrants to build their cases and make communities safer, shouldn’t those informants earn the right to live within them versus being sent back to their home countries where they’ll be in jeopardy?
Sharma-Crawford, Attorneys at Law is a firm deeply experienced in the complexities of immigration law. Whether you are facing criminal or civil litigation in state, federal or immigration court – the caring professionals at Sharma-Crawford can help you navigate through the complex legal system. For more information, please call (913) 385-9821 or visit www.Sharma-Crawford.com. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely on advertisements. The information contained in this article is general information and should not be considered legal counsel.