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ICE Chief Counsel Forged A Document And A Good Person Was Deported: By Immigration Attorney Nick Alcock

“A former federal immigration attorney who forged a document in an effort to get a man deported can be sued for damages, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday.”

Some people have said that people should not be entitled to legal representation in removal proceedings. I think you all know that many of those people now occupy executive positions in the Federal Government. But here’s a story that should give everyone some pause.

Jonathan M. Love was assistant chief counsel for ICE. This is not a low level staff position. In his prosecution of Ignacio Lanuza, he forged a document that indicated that Lanuza had agreed to a voluntary departure in 2000. The only problem, the document that the chief counsel used to show that Lanuza had a voluntary departure was from the Department of Homeland Security. That department did not exist in 2000.

It appears that Jonathan Love was generally a reputable attorney. An investigation revealed no other acts of forgery. I’m sure that he was regarded as one of the “good guys.” But good guys do bad things from time to time and the system needs to allow for protections. In this case, Mr. Lanuza had a legal right to obtain resident alien status, but the forged document instead was used in an attempt to deport him forever.  Here’s the link to that story.

You might be thinking that this situation was a complete aberration. But you would be wrong. Another chief counsel for US ICE in Seattle is facing significant prison time for stealing the identities of people facing deportation. Here’s the link to that story.

As a result, I would seriously hope that the administration would understand that people facing removal deserve representation. By that, I mean all people, not just children. Of course, we can see these serious and newsworthy examples of the immigrant community being exploited by ICE. But there is another type of injustice that occurs on a daily basis, an injustice that centers around lack of knowledge.

The reality is that people who are in removal (deportation) proceedings are oftentimes extremely confused by the process. There’s no question that the immigration process is byzantine and complex. Experience immigration attorneys are oftentimes made to look foolish in court when they are questioned by a judge about jurisdiction or whether or not a criminal conviction renders their client ineligible for relief.

If someone is going through the removal process without an attorney, fear of the unknown can lead people to make huge errors. The most common situation is that people who otherwise qualify for relief sign voluntary departure. This means that people who could adjust their status wind up cast aside, out of the country.

The staff members at ICE know when someone is eligible for relief, and yet they routinely fail to mention this during court proceedings. Unlike in criminal defense matters where prosecutors are required to share exculpatory or helpful evidence to the defendant, immigration counsel are not held to the same standard.

As far as I’m concerned, immigration attorneys should be provided to indigent immigrants in removal proceedings. There are too many examples of bad actors at ICE and immigrants being taken advantage of. I hope the administration will reconsider their outlook.