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Immigration Judge Grants Detained Guatamalan Citizen Permanent Resident Status After Two-Day Hearing

Yesterday I received word that the Government will not appeal an immigration judge’s decision entered July 17, 2008 granting a citizen of Guatemala, and long-term undocumented resident here in the United States, “cancellation of removal” (permanent resident status). To qualify for such relief an applicant has to show

  1. That he has resided in the United States for at least 10 years;

  2. That he is a person of “good moral character”;

  3. That he has not been convicted of a so-called “crime involving moral turpitude” (CIMT);

  4. That he has a qualifying immediate relative, who can be either a child under 21, a parent, or a spouse who is either a US citizen or permanent resident;

  5. And that his qualifying immediate relative will suffer “exceptional and extremely unusual hardship” if he is removed to his home country.

This case was a real challenge because the client had previously been denied bond (release from detention so that his case could be heard on the longer, non-detained docket) on the grounds that he allegedly represented a “danger to the public.” This decision was based on two prior temporary restraining orders and a simple assault charge made by a former girlfriend against him. All of these had been dismissed with no finding of guilt, yet bond was still denied. As a result, the case was put on a fast track. An enormous amount of work had to be completed in a short period of time to get the case ready. It was a “two lawyer case” handled by both me and my Of Counsel colleague Carolina Curbelo.

It was one really worth fighting for. The client’s qualifying relative was his 16-year-old US citizen daughter, who was born in Nebraska when her parents were temporarily present in the United States to find work. She only spent the first three years of her life here before she went with her parents to live in Guatemala. All her other siblings are Guatemalan citizens.

After living about a year in Guatemala and finding that he couldn’t support his family there, my client returned to the United States a second time to support his family. This was in 2006. His daughter only visited him once in the USA in 2010 for three or four months after the Guatemalan school year, followed up by a return here in 2016 to get an "American education" starting in Morristown High School.

What won the case was the daughters’s medical and mental health history. She has a nearly lifelong history of anxiety, back problems, headaches, and gastrointestinal problems for which she received treatment in Guatemala, and here in the United States. We obtained some medical records of her condition from Guatemala, and much more voluminous ones documenting her mental and physical problems in the United States, where she was undergoing therapy, family counseling and continuing doctor visits.

There is no question that her symptoms were aggravated by her father’s earlier denial of release on bond. We strengthened the evidence, showing exceptional and extremely unusual hardship to her, with the report of a highly experienced clinical psychologist, Rhonda Greenberg, Psy.D. She and her team performed an extensive forensic evaluation of the child, including her history in Guatemala; her fear of having to return there and what her future would hold; and the continuing anxiety and medical symptoms she was experiencing while staying with family relatives in Connecticut and waiting to see what her father’s fate would be.

With the grant of relief to her father, and his release from detention and newly acquired permanent resident status, his daughter will now have all the support she needs to grow into a confident and capable American woman.

This is exactly the kind of situation for which non-permanent resident cancellation of removal provides a remedy under our immigration law.

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