Last month, the Firm represented three individuals in removal proceedings. Each of the individuals had been longtime permanent residents (LPR) and each had been placed in removal proceedings based on criminal convictions that had occurred at least ten years ago. In each of the cases, the convictions were for offenses that most would view as serious to very serious. Because the immigration judge had the authority to deport them, the individuals all sought relief under INA §212(c) or INA §240A. In each case, the immigration judge was required to balance the positive factors of their lives against the negative aspects in deciding whether to allow these individuals to stay in our country. These factors can be found in an immigration case called Matter of Marin, 16 I&N Dec. 581 (BIA 1978).
As expected, some of the individuals had more positive factors in their lives as compared to the others, but the one thing each of them had was that a significant period of time had passed since their last conviction. In the eyes of the immigration judge, this is extremely important because it is objective evidence of the persons' "remorse and rehabilitation." From our experience, this one factor is often the one element that makes or breaks a case. Thought of it in another way, if the immigration judge believes that the individual is sorry for their criminal past and has stayed out of trouble (for a long time) since their last conviction, there is a good chance that the judge will permit that person to stay in the United States. The passage of time alone is generally better evidence that the person has "learned their lesson" than if the person truthfully testifies that they are sorry for their crimes and will never do it again. In our cases, because much time had passed between when our clients committed their crimes and when their immigration court hearing took place, the immigration judge found that our clients had used the time to become productive and responsible members of society. Consequently, he agreed to let them keep their resident status and stay in the United States.
Of course, the reliance by immigration judges and government lawyers on a lengthy period of time as the only way to prove that the individual is a "safe bet" for the future is misplaced. Proving remorse and rehabilitation, even in short periods of time is absolutely possible. As a result, one should not assume that just because they have a recent conviction, that it means that they have no chance in immigration court. This simply is not true, and you should hire an experienced immigration attorney with plenty of experience removal or deportation proceedings who is eager to argue that even short periods of time provide an opportunity to demonstrate remorse and rehabilitation. At Chavez & Valko, LLP, these are the types of cases we relish.