California immigrants may be interested to learn that a Supreme Court ruling on June 15 means that individuals whose attorneys mishandle their cases may have another chance on appeal. The ruling dealt with a man who was an undocumented immigrant from Mexico due to be deported after pleading guilty to an assault charge.
The man’s lawyers did not file paperwork in time to halt the deportation process. The man got new lawyers and asked the Board of Immigration Appeals to reopen the case but was refused. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit then said that it was unable to overturn the BIA refusal.
However, the Supreme Court disagreed in an 8-1 decision, ruling that if an immigrant received ineffective counsel, a deadline can be delayed and the case can be reopened. Many immigrant rights activists counted this as a victory for immigrants who may have had attorneys who were either negligent or fraudulent.
Those who find themselves in a situation like this may wish to hire new attorneys as the man in the case did. As this case demonstrates, immigration law changes rapidly, and in some cases, it may even change in response to an individual’s circumstances if those circumstances are very unusual. However, even in a more straightforward case dealing with deportation or other aspects of immigration, an attorney may be able to suggest strategies. For example, immigrants who have children who are U.S. citizens might be permitted to remain in the country. Others might be eligible for asylum if they are able to demonstrate that they are part of a protected class who is in danger if they return to their home country.