FALLS CHURCH, Va., Aug. 7, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- The Board of Immigration Appeals, the nation's highest immigration court, has scheduled oral arguments in a case that could have great consequences with respect to American deportation laws. Raymond Lahoud, the alien's attorney and a leading deportation defense lawyer at the immigration law and deportation defense firm Baurkot & Baurkot, noted that the matter involves a Dominican-national and long-term Permanent Resident for has been detained for nearly two years, without bond, given the Immigration & Nationality Act's harsh mandatory detention statute. The Board grants only twelve oral arguments a year out of the tens of thousands of appeals it receives.
The Department of Homeland Security commenced removal proceedings against the alien, a resident of Easton, Pennsylvania with a wife and three children in February of 2010, based on a 2002 New York conviction for Attempted Arson in the Third Degree. "It took immigration almost a decade to commence removal proceedings against my client," said Lahoud, who will be presenting the oral argument on August 10, 2011. Lahoud claims that the Department of Homeland Security is using his client's case as a test. "For the first time in deportation history, the Department of Homeland Security is claiming that attempted arson is an aggravated felony. Once one is deemed an aggravated felon, the consequences are devastating and any potential forms of deportation relief are essentially barred," said Lahoud.
The Government's flawed argument was based on the fact that the New York statute under which the alien was convicted contained words that were also in a federal aggravated felony statute. The Government agreed that the federal law, while containing all of the New York statute's words, also had a substantial amount of other words. Rather than account for them, the Government argued that the words were irrelevant as they are simply "extra" and should be ignored. Judge Walter Durling of the York, Pennsylvania Immigration Court agreed with the Government.
"For the first time in immigration history, attempted arson was deemed an aggravated felony," Lahoud said. "This appeal is not a small matter. The outcome will certainly change the landscape of the deportation system for years to come. Any state crime with words that are contained in any federal aggravated felony statute, even if the federal statute has ten more elements of proof that the state crime lacks, could be deemed an aggravated felony if the Immigration Court's decision is not vacated," continued Lahoud, "this would mean that even the smallest of state crimes that never would have lead to deportation in the past will force hundreds of thousands more aliens into removal proceedings without any form of relief, for the smallest of crimes. Next thing we know, people are going to be deported for traffic violations."
Lahoud contends that "there is absolutely no way that Attempted Arson is an aggravated felony," and notes that "the Government's attempt to make it so would lead to a massive, overbroad and unconstitutional expansion of the definition of the phrase aggravated felony – a phrase that has the most severe of consequences with respect to removal proceedings."
Both the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the American Immigration Counsel have offered assistance in the appeal.
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