I am proud to announce that yesterday, on April 26th, Legacy Immigration successfully litigated a non-LPR Cancellation case in Baltimore, MD before the Honorable Judge Elizabeth Kessler.
Our client, an Indian foreign national, became a lawful permanent resident of the United States on May 7, 2010. He had resided continuously in the United States since August 12, 1996, when he entered the United States on a tourist visa at the age of four (4) years old. He had not left the country since August 12, 1996.
A victim of severe child abuse, our client self-medicated with marijuana. He was charged with Possession of Marijuana and Possession of Paraphernalia in 2013, convicted of Possession of Marijuana (Sentenced to 364 days, with 359 days suspended) in 2011, convicted of Possession with Intent To Distribute (Sentenced to 364 days suspended) in 2011, and convicted of Possession of Marijuana (Probation Before Judgement) in 2011.
Under section 240(a), the Attorney General may cancel removal in the case of an alien who is deportable from the United States if the alien: (1) has been an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence for not less than five years; (2) has resided in the United States continuously for seven years after having been admitted in any status; and (3) has not been convicted of an aggravated felony, INA §240A(a).
In the original Notice to Appear (NTA), Department of Homeland Security (hereinafter “DHS”), initially charged our client as removable under §237(a)(2)(A)(iii) based on an aggravated felony drug trafficking charge, which DHS subsequently withdrew.
When I accepted his case, I developed a theory which I used to present his case. I filed a memorandum that included case law and our legal arguments, which I actually did for free because I knew it would help us win. So this set the stage for trial…
Because of our unique trial prep, we taught him how to present his case – that his life was truly transformed when he met his wife, who has been there for him emotionally. After meeting his wife, he had turned his life around. He was gainfully employed since June 2017 and living in marital union with his pregnant wife, until ICE showed up at his door and detained him.
On the morning of the Individual Hearing, our client’s legs was shaking and he said he was nervous. I remembered that when I visited him in the detention center to prepare him for trial, he said, “I don’t know if you are spiritual, but I read the Bible daily.” I asked him, “are you born again,” and replied, “yes.”
Being a practicing Methodist, I immediately asked him, “would you like for me to pray with you?” He said, “yes” so I reached out, grabbed his hand firmly to reassure him, and prayed for a couple minutes. Then I gave him a smile and we began.
First, we argued the law – that our client’s conviction for possession with the intent to distribute marijuana under Maryland law is categorially not an aggravated felony drug trafficking offense under the INA. So this conviction did not support removability under the aggravated felony grounds of removal.
Second, we argued our client’s abusive childhood, beginning with the abandonment by his biological father, then living under the roof of an extremely abusive stepfather, one that was so abusive that he was forced to move out of the home to escape his stepfather. As a result, he moved in with pot-dealers who gave him a sense of belonging for the first time in his life and showed him the effects of smoking marijuana. It wasn’t long before he began selling marijuana.
Third, we argued several discretionary factors. First, that our client’s wife is a U.S. citizen who was about 3 months pregnant with their first child. Being a father is something that has brought our client purpose to live and to change his life. Having been raised in an unhealthy environment and by an abusive father, our client wanted to give his wife and child everything that he never had, especially unconditional love.
We mentioned that our client is gainfully employed and is a talented musician. Having been in and out of jail and ICE detention, our client knew he wanted more for his life. Now that his wife is pregnant, our client proved that he was regretful for the pain his actions has caused her and indirectly, their unborn baby.
Our client presented testimony that he left India more than 21 years ago and had no contact with the country since that time. All of his relatives, without exception, are lawfully residing in the U.S. as either U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents. To his knowledge, he had no living relative in the country. He had no property there and does not speak the language. To have him start his life over in India at the age of 26 would be unduly burdensome. Moreover, his wife would want to move with him to India, but given the pollution, lack of access to clean water/food/produce, crime, and non-hygienic environment, especially for a newborn, lack of family ties within India, our client’s wife and child would suffer extreme hardship.
We invited all of our client’s family and friends to attend the hearing. This showed the judge that our client had a tremendous amount of support from friends, family members, and professional colleagues all of whom believe that he has learned from his mistakes. They unanimously considered him to be a positive influence on all with whom he comes into contact. The totality of these facts proved that our client did not pose any ongoing threat to society.
As he gave his testimony, I would look at him and smile (when no one was looking) to reassure him that he was doing very well! Inside, my heart was jumping for him!
Our client testified so well that even I, his attorney, got choked up and teary-eyed. Behind me, I could hear his family members crying and blowing their noses as they watched their loved one in a jumpsuit and shackled give captivating testimony. He cried. They cried. I almost cried. The judge and DHS watched him cry. The bailiff fetched some tissues for him and the judge said “thank you.” He captivated me with his testimony.
As I listened to his answers, I knew we had proven through his testimony that he was remorseful, but more importantly, fully rehabilitated from marijuana. After all of the testimony, DHS did not oppose and merely stated, “we defer to the court.” I knew we had done it!
When it came time for the judge to render her decision, it resembled an “OJ” moment. As soon as the judge said, “I’m going to grant the application for cancellation of removal,” I heard him shout “YES!!!” then I heard happy exclamations from his family members behind me.
After the judge issued her order, we went to the 6th floor and waited for him to be processed. The ICE officer said, “he’s coming out” and within less than 30 minutes, he was reunited with the love of his wife. He was able to touch and kiss his wife, and touch her belly with their unborn child. He kissed his mother, aunt, in-laws, and even us! After the hugs and photos, I ran back up to the court to file a change of address to make sure the green card was mailed to the proper address. It was the last nice thing I could do for him.
As I watched him walk away with his wife and family by his side, my heart was filled with such joy. Our client has dreams of getting his GED, and possibly pursuing a career in Physical Therapy or Law. We wish him and his family all the best – they will remain in my mind and heart forever!