Immigration Law

Unpub. BIA Victory re Ineffective Assistance, Equitable Tolling (Feb. 12, 2018)

CLINIC Training and Legal Support Senior Attorney Michelle N. Mendez writes: "The ASAP team of Swapna Reddy, Dorothy Tegeler, and  Liz Willis has done it again. With just a few days before her check-in with Atlanta ICE ERO, a mother reached out to us via our Facebook group. Taylor, Lee & Associates had represented her and accepted an order of removal without fighting her case. Many of us are familiar with this law firm having heard about or helped the families targeted in January 2016 by the Obama Administration who were also represented by this firm in the same manner. By “representation” I mean that the law firm did not defend her against removal before the IJ instead accepting an order of removal in exchange for seeking a stay of removal and promising an EAD.

When we learned her case involved the same “salvo conducto” practice by this law firm and that the mother had not actually consent to this practice, we knew we had to help this mother. But time was not on our side as her imminent check-in with Atlanta ICE EOR was supposed to be her last. After strategically considering our options, we rushed to prepare an untimely BIA appeal….a two-year untimely appeal. We prepared a stay of removal application and recruited a local advocate, Keith Farmer, to attend the Atlanta ICE ERO check-in with her and submit the stay. Keith handled the situation like a professional, and the mother was ultimately never detained at her subsequent check-ins at which Shana Tabak artfully accompanied her.

The BIA accepted the Notice to Appeal and issued a briefing schedule. We followed this with an emergency motion for a stay of removal with the BIA. While the Notice to Appeal was pending and we awaited the briefing schedule, we complied with the Lozada procedures and obtained a psych evaluation of the client thanks to Craig Katz, Elizabeth Singer, and Varsha Subramaniam. We reached out to Trina Realmuto and Kristin Macleod-Ball, who provided strategic advice and an amicus brief in support of our untimely appeal. Katie Shephard provided an invaluable declaration given her work on the cases of the families represented by this law firm and targeted in January 2016 by the Obama Administration who were taken to Dilley.Laura Lichter also pitched in with strategic feedback and sample filings given her tireless work on the January 2016 cases, and her input was essential. And, last but not least, we reached out to Bradley Jenkins and Lory Rosenberg for their wisdom, who helped us to frame arguments in the most compelling way. 

The BIA dismissed the appeal as untimely instructing us to file a Motion to Reconsider and Remand on the question of timeliness. As was done in five nearly identical cases involving this law firm, we asked the BIA to accept this late-filed appeal on certification, or in the alternative, equitably toll the notice of appeal deadline and remand the case for further proceedings before the Immigration Judge. The BIA decision is [linked here.] Huge thanks to ASAP volunteer law student Mayu Arimoto for her assistance with this briefing. Of course, and as always, thanks to Ben Winograd for his filing assistance with the BIA.

The moral of this story is that defending the rights of immigrants is tough work. We battle inhumane policies, cowardly or openly authoritarian leaders, greedy representatives who fill their coffers with private prison money, negative public opinion, intentional and unintentional media misinformation, notarios/unauthorized practitioners of law, and even other attorneys who abandon their duty to zealously represent their vulnerable clients. But when competent and caring advocates join forces, we can do anything."