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Immigration: An Ethiopian citizen gets an INA 209(c) waiver and a green card after 10 years of immigration struggles and a prior deportation order.

Mr. C came here from Ethiopia in 1997 and applied for asylum. A few years later, the INS denied his asylum claim and placed him in deportation proceedings. The immigration judge (IJ) ultimately denied Mr. C’s asylum claim, and Mr. C’s former attorney appealed the denial to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). In 2000, the BIA affirmed the IJ’s denial of asylum. In the meantime, Mr. C’s wife, also an Ethiopian citizen had obtained asylum status in an independent proceeding after an interview at an INS asylum office. This happened after the conclusion of Mr. C’s deportation proceedings but before the 90 days allowed by law for reopening. However, while petitioning for derivative asylum on form I-730, Mr. C’s former attorney failed to file a motion to reopen with the BIA to preserve Mr. C’s opportunity to undo the deportation order. Instead, the attorney appealed the denial on the merits to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, and then subsequently had the case dismissed for failure to timely file a brief.

Our offices were retained by Mr. C in late summer of 2004 as a desperate attempt to sort out the messy situation. First, we worked closely with the appropriate USCIS local office to dig out the forgotten I-730 and have it adjudicated. After a quickly scheduled interview, USCIS granted Mr. C derivative asylum status in late 2004. Next, we attempted to undo his deportation order through two independent avenues: (1) a joint motion to reopen with the DHS litigation office in Virginia, and (2) an I-602 waiver with USCIS, which is available to asylees based on INA 209(c). We were also prepared to go forward with an ineffective assistance of counsel claim with regard to the prior attorney, if necessary.

While the DHS litigation office procrastinated with our motion for over a year, USCIS granted our waiver application in August 2005, and issued Mr. C a green card while nullifying his prior order of deportation. Mr. C is now a happy permanent resident, having been in this country and having fought for his legal status here for almost 10 years!


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