2020 Pro Bono & Social Impact Report

Page 14


Pardon Reduces Exposure to Deportation A felony conviction is grounds for deportation under the Immigration and Nationality Act—even if it was for nonviolent offenses that occurred decades ago. As a result, peaceful productive lives can be suddenly upended. That was the predicament faced by our client, who was separated from his family and placed in an immigration detention center when a 20-year-old conviction for attempted sale of drugs came to the attention of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Our client had been brought to the U.S. as a child from Colombia. Following his conviction, he had voluntarily entered rehab and became clean and crime-free. He also married, worked his way up to a managerial position at a hospitality company, took care of a sick relative, and volunteered in his community. But after receiving some bad advice from an immigration attorney, he attempted to help his wife apply for U.S. citizenship, which led to the flagging of his felony conviction to DHS. His case went through several appeals before immigration courts and things were looking bleak. A new strategy was needed. That’s when DWT was engaged. In 2019, the team of Victor Kovner, John Magliery, Danielle Toaltoan, and Rich Zukowsky worked with Bronx Defenders to draft and submit a pardon application and letters of reference to Governor Cuomo’s office. In January 2020, we received the very happy news that our client was one of 11 individuals to whom the governor granted clemency. With the state court conviction no longer on our client’s record, there are no automatic federal grounds for his removal. The Bronx Defenders continue to pursue legal remedies to ensure that no discretionary grounds apply to our client either, which would allow him to stay in this country.

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