August 06, 2011 (Original publish date) • By Dennis Beaver
More illegal aliens have been deported than ever before – close to a million in the past three years – according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement figures.
But on occasion, with a showing of extreme hardship, someone in the United States illegally will be allowed to stay under a hardship waiver, but not hardship for the person who could be deported. Instead, it is “extreme hardship for the U.S. citizen spouse or lawful permanent resident spouse or parent of the applicant.”
“Your case is a sure thing”
Proving such hardship is difficult, as immigration law judges are tough as nails and can see through a con job in seconds. You need a good lawyer on your side. Central California readers Thomas and his wife Alexandra thought they had retained such a lawyer, when they met Los Angeles-based immigration attorney Brian and were told, “I guarantee your case is a sure thing.” (Names have been changed.)
Our readers did not know that it is illegal for a lawyer to guarantee a certain outcome. They gladly handed Brian a $5,000 retainer “so Alexandra would not be deported back to El Salvador.”
“My wife was 14 when the family came to the United States illegally,” Thomas explained. “But she learned English quickly, did great in high school and became a bookkeeper. We were married five years ago and assumed it would be easy for her to become a lawful permanent resident. But that was not the case, and she was subject to being deported. I do not want to lose her, and to make matters worse, we have a baby with a severe heart birth defect requiring operations over several years.”
You need to see my psychiatrist for your depression
“After we paid Brian, our case became “more and more difficult, and you need to show hardship, how the possibility of having your wife and baby sent back to El Salvador is causing severe depression and interfering with your business activities,” he told me.
“I want you to see my doctor to get a diagnosis of depression. He will prescribe some heavy-duty medication for sleep and depression,” Brian told Thomas. “Also, we are going to submit declarations to the immigration officials, stating how depressed you are, and a letter from the psychiatrist on your mental condition.”
“He handed me a statement to sign under penalty of perjury about my depression, that normal life was becoming unbearable with the thought of my wife and baby being sent back to El Salvador, and was causing me to lose focus at work and income. But what he wrote was not true,” Thomas told You and the Law.
“I didn’t need any of those things. I deal with stressful situations even day. I told him the last thing I needed was to be branded as having mental problems as this would be horrible in general, and to my status in the military reserve could be used against me.
“I told him we can do this without having to lie, and that I knew this was serious stuff, and a felony to lie on United States immigration documents. He said that if we didn’t, our case would be hurt.
“I just received his bill for additional time which I do not think I should pay. I am being billed for hours meeting with me, drafting the declarations, him speaking with his psychiatrist, all of which was to create a false story. I know we have to get a new lawyer, but I am not a money machine. It can’t make any sense to be required to pay for illegal advice. Do I have to pay for this? What are your recommendations?”
Improper to bill for illegal advice
We reviewed the facts of this case with attorney Rose Safarian, an adjunct professor who teaches legal ethics at San Joaquin College of Law, and with the ethics department of the State Bar of California. Their opinions were identical:
“You cannot advise a client to commit perjury by submitting forms to an agency or the court which you know contain lies. You cannot participate in anything that causes the court to be deceived,” Safarian stated.
“An attorney has the duty to support the laws of the United States. A client has a right to decline payment for advice or legal services which would be a fraud on the court,” the State Bar ethics representative told us.
“Have your readers write the lawyer and tell him to arrange attorney fee arbitration where his fraud would come right out in the open. That’s probably the last they will hear from him,” Professor Safarian recommended.
“Lawyers who lie end badly,” the legal ethics professor maintains.
Next time: her views about lawyers who don’t tell the truth.
Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.