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Friday, March 03, 2017

"The importance of accurate legal advice for noncitizens...has never been more important." Padilla v. Kentucky, 559 U.S. 356, 362 (2010).

Today’s political climate has put immigration law in the spotlight. Many clients of North Carolina immigration lawyers now live in fear, whether they are undocumented or not, that they will somehow be deported. Many are scared to travel outside the US in case of a travel ban.

Ann Robertson has been volunteering to provide legal services at the Mexican Consulate in Raleigh since it opened in 2000 and now is also on retainer. She has seen this fear show up at this Mexican Consulate, which has been flooded with requests for information about the law, about constitutional rights in the US, and about the protection of family and property in the US should a Mexican citizen be deported. In response, consular staff members have organized and attended community meetings all over North and South Carolina. They have prepared packages of information for the community available at their webpage, they have organized workshops, and they have expanded the number of appointments available at the consulate.

Raleigh immigration specialist Ann Robertson also offers the following five tips for attorneys who encounter immigration concerns from their clients.

1. The wrong help can hurt. This advice is the title of a brochure published by the Office of Citizenship and Immigration Services. Immigrants should make sure that they are getting legal advice from persons who truly know immigration law. In 2003, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals cited “the labyrinthine character of modern immigration law—a maze of hyper-technical statutes and regulations that engender waste, delay, and confusion for the government and petitioners alike.” What was true in 2003 is certainly even more so in 2017 given the current climate concerning "noncitizens" in the United States. 

2. How do you find those who truly know immigration law? Find a board certified specialist in immigration law or, in the alternative, talk with a specialist concerning which other attorneys know immigration law. For all attorneys, this suggests a warning: Don't dabble in a field that merits specialization. There are many excellent immigration attorneys in North Carolina who are not "specialists." Immigration law is federal law, so an attorney may be licensed in another state and not in North Carolina and practice immigration law in North Carolina, but that person cannot become a "specialist" through the North Carolina Board of Legal Specialization. Some knowledgeable immigration attorneys choose not to take our North Carolina specialty examination because they focus their practices on areas that do not require competency in all topics covered by the specialty exam. Those of us who are "specialists" know the best immigration law attorneys in North Carolina and we can make referrals to other competent attorneys.

3. Realize that all areas of law intersect with immigration law. An attorney should always find out his or her client's immigration status and, if that client (or the client of opposing counsel) is not a US citizen, then the attorney should consider issues that might come up because of the client's immigration status. The attorney should consider referring that client to a competent immigration attorney to determine what might be any immigration consequences of the attorney's work. 

4. Attorneys should know and tell their clients about the constitutional rights of any "person" in the United States. Your clients have the right to remain silent. Your client may insist that the immigration official (an officer who is employed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, often referred to as ICE) have a search warrant in order to come into your client's home or workplace or search your client's automobile. Many agencies have published excellent materials entitled "Know Your Rights." My favorite one can be found online here. This document can be found in English and in Spanish, and I prefer it because it describes how your client should respond to an immigration official depending on the setting including "your home," "your workplace," "the street or a public area," or "your car."

5. Communicate effectively. Attorneys should be cautious about communicating effectively with their clients, especially those for whom English is not their first language. Be sure that the client really does understand what you are saying. In many cultures, an individual may be taught to smile and nod in a way that may imply comprehension when, in fact, the person doesn't actually understand what is being said.

In this time of rapidly changing immigration policies, Ann Robertson stated that it is vitally important for any immigration attorney to stay informed. She made the following suggestions. Immigration lawyers should join the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), which publishes information almost daily about changes that impact the practice of immigration law. AILA puts out its "AILA 8" which includes the eight top stories of that day with links to detailed information about each story. The nonprofit ASISTA also provides information to help immigrant victims of violence and trafficking.

Filed Under: General News