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Window closing for aliens with Florida criminal convictions to move to withdraw pleas that could leave them vulnerable to adverse immigration actions

Author: Tomislav D. Golik
Attorney, Leimbach & Sharma

Under the Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA) convictions for certain categories of crimes carry with them the risk that the alien defendant may face removal proceedings or inadmissibility to re-enter the United States.  Under U.S. law, “convictions” are defined to include pleas of guilty or nolo contendere (no contest).  Even criminal offenses which have been pardoned or expunged are still considered convictions for immigration purposes.

Until 2006, the Florida Supreme Court held that an alien who was actually threatened with deportation as a result of a plea of guilty or no contest had two years to move to set aside their plea.  Further, that two year period did not begin to run until the alien first learned, or should have had knowledge of, the threat of deportation based on the plea.

That changed on October 26, 2006, when the Florida Supreme Court ruled in State v. Green that the two year limitations period starts to run from the date the judgment and sentence become final.  In the interests of fairness, however, the court further ruled that the Green decision would not apply retroactively.  Any alien whose criminal case was finalized prior to October 26, 2006, still had the two year period to file for post conviction relief from their plea.  That window closes on October 26, 2008.

If you are an alien who entered a plea of guilty or no contest to a crime in the State of Florida, you should contact an attorney immediately to see if your plea could subject you to deportation proceedings.  This is especially true of those who entered pleas to felonies, but there are many criminal offenses classified as misdemeanors that could also serve as grounds for removal of a resident alien or visa holder.  It is not always clear from the language of the INA which crimes could subject an alien to deportation.  Consult an attorney that understands grounds for deportation and inadmissibility to make sure you understand the consequences of your criminal plea.

Even if you no longer reside in Florida, a criminal plea entered there may still subject you to deportation.  If you find that your Florida plea can subject you to deportation, you still need to determine whether grounds exist for challenging it.  An experienced Florida Criminal Defense Attorney can help determine whether grounds exist for moving to withdraw a plea and how much time remains to do so.  Any person fearing they may be affected by a criminal plea in Florida should contact an attorney immediately, as that attorney may need considerable time to do any necessary research and obtain the appropriate records to review a case. 

‘It turned out I was the bad guy’

Via The Chicago-Sun Times

Corina Turcinovic came to the U.S. 17 years ago to care for her disabled fiance. Now that he has died, she’s getting kicked out.

ICE Will No Longer Sedate Deportees

U.S. immigration agents must not sedate deportees without a judge’s permission, according to a policy change issued this week.

Study: Kids Hurt by Immigration Raids

Via AP

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (AP) — Thousands of children whose parents are arrested in immigration raids in the U.S. face mental health issues including post-traumatic stress disorder, separation anxiety and depression, according to a new study released Wednesday by the Urban Institute.

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New York Officials Denounce Tactics Used in Immigration Raids

Via Fox News

Federal agents displayed a “cowboy” mentality while running roughshod over local police officers — at times pointing their weapons at cops — and ensnared more suspected illegal aliens than targeted gangsters in raids on Long Island last week, officials said Tuesday.

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U.S. sailor: Don’t deport my wife


JACKSONVILLE, Florida (CNN) — Eduardo Gonzalez, a petty officer second class with the U.S. Navy, is about to be deployed overseas for a third time. Making his deployment even tougher is the fact his wife may not be around when he comes back.

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Mistake costs dishwasher $59,000


  • Guatemala native Pedro Zapeta a dishwasher in the U.S. for 11 years

  • The illegal immigrant tried to bring $59,000 in savings back to Guatemala

  • U.S. customs seized cash when Zapeta failed to fill out form declaring money

  • Zapeta, who tried to get the money back for two years, now faces deportation

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    ICE: Tab to remove illegal residents would approach $100 billion

    CNN recently reported that it would cost approximately $100 billion to remove all 12 million people in the U.S.  “An ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] spokesman later said the $94 billion did not include the cost of finding illegal immigrants, nor court costs — dollar amounts that are largely unknowable.” 

    Another unknowable number, and one most relevant and material in my opinion, is the actual number of undocumented workers in the U.S. – some have put this number as high as 20 million, as opposed to ICE’s estimate of 12 million.  Secondly, the cost of finding and processing/prosecuting these undocumented people is ‘unknowable’ according to ICE, and hasn’t been factored into the $100 billion amount [which only includes ICE personnel costs, room and board in a detention cell for 32 days as well as transportation back to the person’s home country].  These two additional costs would easily dwarf the prison and transportation costs.

    Collateral costs would be immense as well.  Employers would lose
    billions; so would the retail industry, housing market, auto dealers and banks, to name a few. 

    Bottom line: the actual cost may be more than double ICE’s figure, plus the aforementioned collateral costs.  Even assuming the money is made available, and assuming that the 12-20 million people can somehow be found, logistical bottlenecks in ICE manpower, court access and detention cells, as well as the grim reality of the true economic impact of such a move will preclude any serious attempt to mount a large scale removal program. 

    ICE’s cost analysis is not helpful, accurate or realistic.  They may just as well have announced the cost of a popsicle stick ladder to the moon without factoring in the cost of glue, and while pointedly ignoring the laws of gravity and physics.  We need to face reality and look to comprehensive immigration reform.

    Kevin, 10, helps reform U.S. immigration

    Via The Star

    A settlement between the U.S. Immigration and
    Customs Enforcement and the American Civil Liberties Union, Washington contained a provision requiring the improvement of conditions for children held by ICE. 


    “All 10-year-old Kevin Yourdkhani remembers about the T. Don Hutto
    immigration detention centre in Texas is that it’s “a very bad place
    for children and babies…As part of the settlement, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
    said it would allow detained children to move freely at the facility,
    provide a full-time paediatrician, end the “count system,” install
    privacy curtains around toilets
    and offer outings, toys, books and
    child-appropriate food to minors.”

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    U.S. Deports Parents of Dead Soldiers

    Via Alternet

    Three years after U.S. Army Private Armando Soriano, 20, died fighting
    in Haditha, Iraq, his father is facing deportation. Soriano is now
    buried in Houston, Tex., his hometown, where his parents, undocumented
    workers from Mexico, are currently living.

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    Detention isolates illegal immigrants

    Via United Press International

    Illegal immigrants held in alien detention centers are isolated from the world, a new report says.

    The illegals cannot reach their families or their lawyers
    because of a faulty telephone system, according to a new Government
    Accountability Office report released Friday.

    The GAO found that over a 12-month period starting in
    November 2005, phones weren’t working properly in 16 of 17 alien
    detention centers around the country that use pro bono telephone
    systems. In June of 2006, only 35 percent of phone-calls out of the
    detention system were successful and the percentage was never above 74.

    “Detainees are completely isolated within the system,” Mark
    Dow, author of “American Gulag: Inside U.S. immigration prisons,” said
    in a phone interview. “Even their help-line is clearly a joke.”

    “What a lot of people don’t understand about these detainees
    is that usually they don’t speak English and are held in isolated
    areas,” Dow said. “The telephone is a lifeline.”

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