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Open Deception by Government Employees While Conducting Government Business

Today, officers of the Department of Homeland Security’s, Immigration and Customers Enforcement (ICE), told my attorneys one thing, while doing something else entirely. This is not the first time. It happens, but each time it’s newly painful. Without warning, one of our clients was spirited out of Columbus, Ohio, today, put on a plane in Detroit, Delta flight 159, bound for Seoul, Korea, which departed at about 3:40 pm this afternoon. Just hours before, two officers in the Columbus, Ohio, ICE office told our attorneys that our client’s case was still in negotiations. We thought our client was still in Columbus, in detention.

Our client entered the US legally in 1988, as a crewman, and overstayed his entry permit. While in the US, he built a successful construction business, and paid his taxes, but knowing he was illegal, avoided having his own children. He married a United States citizen, and was step-father to her child. Nearly ten years ago, our client hired our firm, as he really wanted to become a legal US citizen.

Our client’s early attempts at legalization were promising, but in 2009, the immigration court decided he was not eligible for legal residency, and so must be deported. The wheels of justice turn slowly (when speed is not in the government’s interest), and the years passed, our client going from work authorization to work authorization, building a business, not committing any crimes, and supporting his family.

By 2012 we filed an appeal. We worked the appeal process, but within two years the appeal was denied. We feel the denial was incorrect, and feel the client’s extenuating circumstances are just the right mix for a person to be granted permanent residency. The immigration court will not budge, and continued pushing for deportation. Then yesterday, at a regular appointment, ICE detained him.

I am mystified. I spoke with my client’s wife today after we learned of his deportation, and I had no words to console her, and just thought I have failed. It reminded me of Christopher Hutchens’ “Vanity Fair” article about his experience with cancer: “I have more than once in my time woken up feeling like death.” That’s not me, Margaret – that’s my client. Deportation is worse than death, especially after having been here for a quarter century.

Here is an otherwise fully law-abiding man, building his American Dream, paying his taxes, helping raise a family. Other than overstaying his permit, he’s a model citizen. A pioneer in a sense. A South Korean man who married a Chinese woman. They built a home and family together, and avoided the historical and political uneasiness of the differences of Chinese and Koreans of the past 100 years. A good man. I liked this family and have personally know them for a long time.

And yet ICE puts him in the same classification as hardened criminals, for swift deportation. Our client has been taken to a country he has avoided for more than 20 years with no money, no change of clothes, and no medications.

I just cannot believe it. While this is not the first time ICE says one thing to placate us and does another thing, it feels like a swindle. A dishonest action. I feel, in fact, that the firm’s been deceived.

Not a good feeling. Especially since the perpetrators were people we normally trust. Federal officials told us one thing, fully knowing something else entirely was under way. We are all officers of the court – we take oaths to always be truthful. Yes, this happens from time to time, but not frequently. It’s not a normal operating procedure. We’ve been in this business a long time, so are familiar both with the players and the playbook. We attorneys and the government must trust each other. Every day. It’s the only way to win justice for our clients. And we will.