Pro Bono 30 Jun. 2021

Curtis Lawyers Successfully Appeal Deportation Order, Obtain New Competency Hearing on Behalf of Detained Pro Bono Client

Curtis successfully represented a detained individual before the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”). The BIA ruled that Curtis’s client, who, like the vast majority of individuals in deportation proceedings, had lacked representation before the Immigration Judge, was entitled to a new, reasoned competency evaluation and review of his applications for relief from deportation.

Immigration Judges are required to evaluate the competency of individuals facing deportation where those individuals experience difficulty understanding the proceedings. Immigration Judges must issue reasoned decisions on their findings, and, if necessary, order adequate safeguards to protect those individuals’ due process rights. Matter of M-A-M-, 25 I&N Dec. 474 (BIA 2011). Curtis demonstrated to the BIA that the Immigration Judge had failed to make a reasoned competency evaluation, and, in fact, had relied on the very difficulties its client experienced in the proceedings as a basis for an adverse credibility finding and denial of relief from deportation. On remand, Curtis’s client will be entitled to a new evaluation of whether safeguards are warranted, and a new evaluation of his claims for relief from deportation.

Curtis’s client suffered difficult circumstances earlier in life, obtaining only a first-grade education and being forced into manual labor following the killings of his parents and sister. After being beaten unconscious for supporting an opposition candidate in Haiti’s presidential election, he fled to the United States and was granted asylum. Although he has worked consistently since arriving in the United States, he cannot read or write, and does not speak English.

The Curtis team was led by associates Andrew Larkin of the New York office and Marija Ozolins of the Washington, D.C. office, with the supervision of partner Turner Smith (New York). The team included Marwa Farag and Jean Lambert (both New York), and paralegal Jackie Messemer (Washington, D.C.) also provided valuable contributions and support. Curtis’s engagement was arranged through the assistance of CAIR Coalition, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit that strives to ensure equal justice for all immigrant adults and children at risk of detention and deportation in the Capital region area and beyond.

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