Anger for Justice

When injustice becomes law or the norm, standing firm against it becomes a duty. When the agents of the law arbitrarily misapply and manipulate the law in order to reach a certain conclusion, albeit unjust, it is the obligation of the social engineer to challenge their actions to ensure that justice prevails.

 

The man came into the U.S legally with a valid visa in the year 2000, however over the course of time, he overstayed and became out of status.  He later got married to a US citizen and they had two children as fruits of the marriage. However, the marriage fell apart and so was the immigration petition and applications filed on behalf of the man. As a result, the United States Citizen and Immigration Service (USCIS) placed him in removal/deportation proceedings in January 2007.

 

About a year into his immigration dilemma, he reunited with his high school sweetheart who had recently become a widow. He became her source of comfort and lent his ears to accommodate her lamentations of grieving.  Meanwhile, he was still in the US while the woman, a US citizen moved back to her home country after the death of her husband in order to wound up his affairs and complete some projects she and her deceased husband were working on before his death.

 

After maintaining constant telephonic contacts for over a year, the high school sweethearts decided to get married. The woman flew from a country in Africa to tie the knot with her new found partner. They got married in a quiet ceremony. As a result of this nuptial, the woman knowingly gave up the monthly social security financial benefits she had been receiving stemming from the death of her previous husband.  Nevertheless, this was a small price she was willing to pay to recapture love and companionship once again.

 

Subsequently, she filed a petition for alien relative (form I-130) for her new husband. The USCIS approved the petition after having being satisfied that the marriage was genuine and not entered for immigration purposes.

 

Nevertheless, because of the nature of the building and business projects she was handling in Africa, she could not fully relocate to the US until she had completed the projects.  However, her two college-age children were attending colleges in the U.S.  In spite of the diametrically opposed obligations she had to handle in two different continents, she travels to the US to visit her husband three to four times a year.

 

After the approval of the marriage petition, her husband applied for his green card before the Immigration Judge. However, the Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) Assistant Chief Counsel opposed the application and requested a  hearing so the couple could prove to the court again that their marriage was bonafide even though USCIS had already made that conclusion.  The hearing was held and the Immigration Judge concluded that the couple’s marriage was genuine.  The judge scheduled an adjustment of status/green card hearing for a year later.

 

About a week to the green card or adjustment hearing, the couple consulted with me for representation because their prior counsel could not continue to represent them for personal reasons unrelated to their case.

 

In July 2009, we went for the hearing. The man, who was the intending immigrant was put on the stand and was grilled for hours by ICE counsel until it was time for the court to close. As such, we were not able to put the wife, (who flew in from Africa for the hearing) on the stand. In short, the hearing could not be completed on that day because of the lengthy cross-examination of the husband by the government counsel.  Hence, the judge adjourned the hearing to September 30, 2009.

 

The wife had to return to Africa shortly after the hearing.  However, about a week prior to the September hearing, she flew back to join her husband and present herself for the hearing. Just like the hearing in July, she was subjected to lengthy, long wounded cross-examination by the government’s counsel. Government’s counsel asked her why she had not moved back fully to the U.S and she explained the nature of the projects she was handling and how she could not just leave without finalizing the project as her deceased husband’s families were waging a battle to dispossess her of her deceased husband’s properties. The government counsel then suggested that if she could not move here until she stabilized her inheritance, why couldn’t her new husband move to Africa to join and live with her. She replied that they had both decided to stay in the U.S especially since she is a U.S citizen and that she was planning to finally move back by the end of 2009.

 

On redirect examination, I asked her to explain to the court how it is perceived in the African culture if a man moved in to live with his wife.  She told the court that it is seen as a disgraceful act only a man without dignity would dare embark on. I followed up and asked her to explain to the court how the culture in her country would react to a situation in which her new husband moves in to reside with her in the house that was built by her deceased husband. She elucidated that such an act is considered as one of the highest taboo and could lead to her eviction from the house by her late husband’s family especially since there was ongoing legal dispute regarding the property that she was defending.

 

At the end of the trial, the Immigration Judge granted my client’s application for adjustment of status (green card), he further found that all the witnesses were “substantially credible.”  Nevertheless, in spite of the judge’s well-founded decision, the government counsel,  looking awestruck appealed the decision to the Board of Immigration Appeal (BIA).

 

The government counsel knowing that her appeal had no factual and legal basis, embarked on a backdoor way to deny my clients their rights by contacting the local immigration field office to retroactively deny the marriage petition which had been approved over a year prior. The local office, in turn, issued a Notice of Intent to Revoke visa approval to my clients. I vehemently opposed the issuance of the notice but responded under protest producing all the documents they requested and more. I also wrote a personal letter of complaint to the Field Office Director and her supervisor explaining that the process of retroactive revocation being used against my client violates due process of law, is unjust and should not be condoned and that the agency should not allow it to be used as an instrument of injustice by a sister agency just because a government counsel was dyspeptic about a judge’s decision.

 

In spite of the overwhelming additional evidence my clients submitted, the local immigration office revoked the visa without any credible or reasonable basis. The Regional Office Director also wrote me back sanctioning the actions of the field office citing that it was not a violation of due process. Hence, I filed an appeal to this unfair decision to the BIA.

 

Meanwhile, I also sent a letter of complaint to the Chief Counsel about the Assistant Chief Counsel, alleging that her assistant was abusing her authority by her actions and the quest to ensure that an unjust decision is reached contrary to the judge’s decision after lengthy hearings and trials.  I prayed him to stop the unjust process and call his assistant to order and to ensure that similar situations do not arise in the future. The Chief Counsel called me back a few days later acknowledging my concern but said that he believed his assistant’s actions were within the province of their power. I fired back a letter to him expressing my disappointment with his decision in spite of the apparent injustice and abuse of power. I vilified his support of his assistant and promised that I will not stop short until justice prevails and that “I will assiduously assert the rectitude of the matter.”

 

After the revocation of my client’s visa approval, the Assistant Chief Counsel filed a Motion to Remand with the BIA, stressing that my client’s visa had been revoked by the USCIS. I countered the motion accordingly and explained the process through which my client’s visa was revoked in spite of the evidence he presented and the immigration judge’s decision.  The BIA agreed with me and denied the government’s motion to remand.

 

In December 2010, the BIA made a decision on my clients’ appeal of the revocation of their visa approval. The BIA agreed with my arguments, ruled in my client’s favor and instructed the local field office to reinstate the visa approval immediately. A month later, January 2011, the BIA denied the appeal filed by the Assistant Chief Counsel and held that the judge did not err in ruling in favor of my clients.

 

Upon receipt of these decisions, I sent a letter to the local immigration field office requesting that they issue my client’s green card immediately. My client scheduled several appointments with the USCIS to commence the issuance of his green card. However, every time he appeared at the field office, they told him that they had not received his file back from the Office of Chief Counsel, which was only two hours drive away. They promised to request the file, only for my client to go back the next time and be told the same thing.

 

I gave them enough time to ensure that enough patience had been exhausted. When my client had not received his green card by the middle of September 2011, I sent a letter requesting the local field office to issue the green card and adhere to the judge’s decision, especially since it had been about two years, I also pointed out that it could not have taken over five months to transport a file from a city two hours away, even by road. The following week, my client received his green card. The process had taken over four years, two of which my client was in immigration limbo, fighting the injustice of the system and the power that be.  Although, in the beginning, it seemed that my client was entangled in an ineluctable legal net fashioned by government agents, he eventually prevailed because he had an advocate who would not relent until justice was served.

 

This is a case that ignited the burning embers of constructive, justified anger within me. My anger was based on compassion and grieved by injustice. I delved into the quest for justice without fear and with an intrepid determination to get my clients justice even if they couldn’t afford it, which in this case, they could not afford to pay me my reasonable prevailing fees as the matter was dragging on for years. Nevertheless, I was not discouraged by the lack of funding, but propelled by my vision to be a voice to the voiceless. In the face of injustice being perpetrated by the people hired by the government and sworn to enforce the law, I made it a duty to oppose the injustice to the highest level possible. Though justice was delayed, I ensured that it was not denied regardless of the roaring powerful oppositions mounted by two separate immigration agencies.  My anger lead to a positive result. It is for situations such as this that I became a lawyer.