Humility and Immigration Law

September 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

Today I consulted with a man with a very difficult immigration case.  Nothing new about that.  But what happened was very educational to me as an attorney. 

I asked all of my questions and reviewed his papers.  He kept pointing to one section of one page.  It was a commonly generated notice of action from the Immigration Service. 

I responded that I have seen this language thousands of times.  So I did not bother to read the thing word for word, rather jumping for law books to support my initial conclusions about how to resolve the case.

Finally, when I reentered my office, I sat down again at my desk and looked at the paper, which was still in the center of my desk.  The man sat silently as I finally read the document.  And wouldn’t you know it?  There were some sentences in there that I had never seen before, important stuff that might help solve his problem. 

I was so caught up in analysis that I glossed over the diagnosis.  In other words, ego got in the way.  Luckily, I returned to the important lesson that I had learned from my days of training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, which I often apply to Immigration Law:

“What’s the key to ground fighting?  What should I focus on?  The answer, when it comes from Zé or Murilo, is enlightening: humility.  Always assume that your opponent is better than you, that he knows more – you have to work harder in training and learn more. You know only 5 percent of what there is to know.  Fight your own pride and ego and be open-minded and always learning new techniques, new things from anyone.”

The thing is, I just found out that I had been named to Best Lawyers in America for the seventh year in a row, and that sort of honor is humbling. 

I never want to let the awards go to my head.  Instead, I want to remember that I only know 5 percent of what there is to know, because just like ground fighting, Immigration Law is a never-ending series of combinations and confusing twists.  And you have to always focus on humility.  

Today I learned the answer to this fellow’s problem, not by reading it in a statute or sharing information with my colleagues, although those elements are crucial as well.  The answer was staring me right in the face.


(Quotation above from A Fighter’s Heart by Sam Sheridan)



Prosecutorial Discretion Starting to become Reality?

August 31, 2011 § Leave a comment

A father and son set to be deported to Peru won a last-minute, temporary reprieve after an Illinois senator intervened on their behalf.  Immigration and Customs Enforcement is delaying for a month the deportation of longtime Concord resident Arturo Rengifo, Sr., and his son, Arturo Rengifo, Jr.  “My mom is able to relax more,” said the 24-year-old son, who would have left his mother and older brother in Concord had he been forced to take the one-way flight to Lima on Tuesday night. “She can actually breathe now. Hopefully more good things will happen, and I will be able to stay in this country.”   The Rengifos are hoping a more lenient Obama administration deportation policy, announced on Aug. 18 but not yet implemented, could keep the family of four together in the Bay Area.  “I have more hope now; I have more faith now. I didn’t pack my bags,” said Arturo Rengifo, Jr., a student at Diablo Valley College and customer service representative at an AT&T store in Richmond. His father is a janitor, and the parents run a day care business at their home.  They applied for political asylum in the 1990s, but Arturo Rengifo, Sr., recently lost his case after several appeals.  News of the 30-day stay came to the family from the office of US Sen. Dick Durbin, which had made calls to immigration officers on the family’s behalf. (Contra Costa Times)

Federal judge blocks Alabama’s new immigration law from taking effect this week

August 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

Chief U.S. District Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn cited the need for more time to consider the legal challenges against the law in an injunction that blocks implementation of the law through September 29  “In entering this order the court specifically notes that it is in no way addressing the merits of the motions,” the judge wrote in her two-page order.  Federal judges have previously blocked key parts of other immigration laws passed in Georgia, Arizona, Utah and Indiana. The Alabama law, widely seen as the toughest state measure on illegal immigration, requires police to detain people they suspect of being in the United States illegally if they cannot produce proper documentation when stopped for any reason. The law also makes it a crime to knowingly transport or harbor an illegal immigrant, and requires public schools to determine, by reviewing birth certificates or sworn affidavits, the legal residency status of students upon enrollment. (reuters)

Implementing Alabama Immigration Law : “There’s a lot of unknowns”

August 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

This law will affect every county in Alabama and some groups are gearing up to protest it, and this issue is now pending litigation in federal court. Probate offices are on the clock to prepare and sift through confusion.  “I have confusion about it,” Montgomery resident Jamie Rodriguez said.  “I’m looking to explain exactly what is the process.” He’s lived and worked in Montgomery for 8 years. His broken English and changes in proof of citizenship, make getting his tag renewal a little more difficult. “I have passport, driver’s license, international driver’s license,” Rodriguez said. And come September 1st, it’s going to be even more difficult, not only for people like Jaime, but all Alabama residents.   “No one is exempt from this, everyone will have to come in with the proper identification.”  Montgomery County Probate Judge Reese McKinney says local offices are running out of time. “There’s a lot of unknowns,” McKinney said.  He says even though the state passed the law in June, it didn’t release rules and regulations until just 12 days ago.  “And it’s been a short fuse for everybody and we’re trying our best here in Montgomery county to comply and we will comply, it’s just a lot of work. McKinney says all the documents will now have to be scanned and stored. New scanners are on the way and staff must be trained by the September 1 deadline.  “It’s going to cost the taxpayers of our county more money to implement,” McKinney said.  He says you will have to physically bring in proof of citizenship. And that could mean suspending the Internet and mail-in renewal system which accounts for 17% of business, adding more chaos and larger crowds in the offices. “It’s going to change the way we do business in Montgomery County and every county,” McKinney said. And it’s going to be costly to implement these changes.  (wsfa)

“a more sensible and lawful policy on illegal immigration”

August 20, 2011 § Leave a comment

The administration said that it would stop deporting illegal immigrants who pose no threat to public safety or national security so that it can focus on catching and expelling criminals who do. The new policy ratifies an approach set forth in a recent memo from the director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, John Morton, on the agency’s use of “prosecutorial discretion.” The memo suggested that immigration enforcement officers and lawyers should move more aggressively against drug dealers, gang members, and other flagrant violators than against illegal immigrants who pose no danger. That would include people with clean records, those who came to the US as children, the elderly, pregnant women, veterans, service members and those with serious illnesses or disabilities. The administration is not granting amnesty for any class of immigrants. It will review thousands of individual deportation cases, one by one, and suspend deportation proceedings in cases where a person is no threat. The new approach acknowledges that this country is squandering law-enforcement resources on deporting tens of thousands of people who work hard, pay taxes and build families. Misplaced enforcement efforts have also been directed at another vital resource — students who arrived in this country as children, graduated from high school, and want to serve in the military or go to college. (The new policy should protect many young people who would qualify for legal status under the long-stalled Dream Act.) Critics of sensible immigration policy are accusing the administration of a “back-door amnesty.” But they are living in a fictional world, believing that all immigrants are dangerous criminals and that harsher laws and a border fence will make our immigration problems disappear. With this new policy, the administration is rejecting inflexible deportation policies that solve nothing. Though Immigration and Customs Enforcement is moving in the right direction, many states and local governments are not. Police are still rounding people up needlessly and legislatures are passing harsh laws to criminalize civil immigration violations. There is no question that the government needs to enforce immigration laws vigorously to protect the country from criminals and others who would do us harm. The new policy promises to do that.  (NYTimes)

The most important policy change in immigration in a decade?

August 19, 2011 § Leave a comment


“The Obama administration said it will review the cases of 300,000 illegal immigrants currently in deportation proceedings to identify “low-priority” offenders — including the elderly, crime victims and people who have lived in the US since childhood — with an eye toward allowing them to stay. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced the review as the Obama administration has sought to counter criticism that it has been too harsh in its deportation policies. By launching the case-by-case review, officials said they are refocusing deportation efforts on convicted felons and other “public safety threats.” The administration’s action was cheered bysome illegal immigrants, notably college students who have been pushing Congress to pass the Dream Act, which would allow them to stay in the country.”  (LA Times)


Alabama immigration law opposed by sheriffs, bishops, and federal government

August 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

Since  Gov. Robert Bentley signed an immigration enforcement law called the toughest in the country by critics and supporters alike, the opposition has been nonstop.  Thousands of protesters have marched. Farmers and contractors have personally confronted their lawmakers. Civil rights groups have sued, and have been backed by a list of groups including teachers’ unions and 16 foreign countries. County sheriffs, who will have to enforce parts of the new law, have filed affidavits supporting the legal challenges.  The Justice Department joined the fray, contending, as in Arizona, that the state law pre-empts federal authority to administer and enforce immigration laws.  An Episcopal bishop, a Methodist bishop and a Roman Catholic archbishop, all based in Alabama, sued on the basis that the new statute violated their right to free exercise of religion, arguing that it would “make it a crime to follow God’s command to be Good Samaritans.”  While church leaders have spoken out against similar laws elsewhere, Alabama is the only state where senior church leaders have gone so far in formal, organized opposition. The law in Alabama contains some of the controversial provisions of other recent state laws, including one that empowers local law enforcement to try to ascertain immigration status after pulling people over for traffic violations.  But the law also makes it a crime to transport, harbor or rent property to people who are known to be in the country illegally, and it renders any contracts with illegal immigrants null. To some church leaders — who say they will not be able to give people rides, invite them to worship services or perform marriages and baptisms — the law essentially criminalizes basic parts of Christian ministry. (NY Times excerpts)