We have waited just over three months for this day, where we can introduce Adi Nuñez as an attorney at Benach Ragland! Although Adi has been with us since September, Adi was sworn in as a member of the bar of the State of Maryland today and now has all the rights, privileges and obligations of being a licensed attorney. We welcome Adi into this profession that we love and know that Adi will use her powers to benefit our clients, their families and communities for years to come.
This is not to say that she has not already used those powers. Behind the scenes, Adi has poured her heart and soul into some of our most significant cases, such as Dree Collopy’s recent victory in a gang-based asylum claim for a woman and her son detained at the federal gulag in Artesia, NM. She also was there for the great jamon and wine event last week to celebrate the holidays at BR.
A Californian of Mexican heritage, Adi joins an office that represents much of Latin America- Cuba (Andres), Colombia (Sandra), Honduras (Liana), and Peru (Mariela). If Cubans played soccer (excuse me, futbol), we could have a World Cup. Adi moved east to attend Catholic University for law school. While there, she was a Student Attorney at the Immigration Clinic taught by Dree Collopy. She made quite an impression on her professor who scooped her right up after her graduation.
While Adi’s academic career included a couple of unfortunate detours working for the government on immigration enforcement issues, we do not believe that it was anything that a few months of winning cases for people won’t fix. Also, some of her mother’s Mexican food would help too.
Adi has the care, passion and intellect to represent immigrants and their families well. We expect many more great things from her as she grows into her career and congratulate her on this important milestone.
In a move that will help thousands of immigrants, California governor Jerry Brown signed SB 1310 into law today. This law imposes a maximum sentence of 364 days in prison for those convicted of misdemeanors in California. The law is set to take effect on January 1, 2015. Under current California law, a person convicted of a misdemeanor may be sentenced up to one year, or 365 days, in prison. The change of subtracting one day from the maximum sentence can help many people convicted of minor crimes avoid certain detention and removal from the U.S.
U.S. immigration law attaches consequences to many convictions based upon what the potential sentence is or what the sentence imposed is. Immigration law treats a suspended sentence as the equivalent of a served sentence. So, an individual convicted of petty larceny who gets a year in prison with a full year suspended is considered to be an aggravated felon because he has been convicted of a theft offense with a sentence of a year. Even though the sentencing judge did not see fit to incarcerate, the Department of Homeland Security will jail and likely removal such an individual. The new law goes a long way to preventing this inequitable result. For example:
- A noncitizen is deportable for a single conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude committed within five years of admission, if the offense has a potential sentence of one year or more. INA § 237(a)(2)(A), 8 USC § 1227(a)(2)(A). As of the effective date, a single California misdemeanor conviction will not cause deportability under this ground, because it will carry a maximum possible sentence of 364 days.
- Conviction of certain offenses becomes an aggravated felony only if a sentence of a year or more is imposed. For example, crimes defined as: crime of violence, theft offense, obstruction of justice, forgery, perjury, receipt of stolen property are only aggravated felonies if the sentence imposed is a year or more. And, yes, misdemeanors can be aggravated felonies. However, with the change in California law, misdemeanor versions of these categories of offenses can not be aggravated felonies. Designation of an offense as an aggravated felony is often very prejudicial to a non-citizen as not only does it establish removability, it causes mandatory detention and serves as exclusion to nearly all forms of relief from removal.
There are myriad other ways that this simple change in the law will aid immigrants and their families. As Congress remains stuck, inventive advocates are pursuing a variety of creative remedies in a variety of fora to slow down the deportation machine and improve lives for thousands of immigrants, their communities and their families.