July 2017 Decision from the 2nd Circuit: Why Even Permanent Residents Should Consult an Attorney Before Travelling Abroad

Heredia v. Sessions, a recent case (decided on July 27, 2017), reveals why it is important to consult with an attorney before crucial actions. Frequently, at Fintus, we hear from individuals who decided that they would handle their immigration case on their own. A lot of these people made this decision before even having a consultation. Many of them decided to avoid the consultation, because they wanted to avoid a few-hundred-dollar consultation fee that law firms might charge. At Fintus, we hear from these people after the government presents them with big problems.

We get it. In this day and age, who does not like to save money? If you think you will receive, on the internet, the same advice that you would receive in a consultation, why not receive it on the internet for free?

The subject of the case Heredia v. Sessions, Mr. Gomez, is a perfect illustration of why doing things without a lawyer is just like investing your life savings in penny stocks of companies you have never heard of.

In all likelihood, Mr. Gomez’s immigration journey will end with him being removed to the Dominican Republic, a place that he intended to visit for only a short trip in 2015. It was this short trip that started his immigration nightmare.

Mr. Gomez entered the US as a permanent resident in 1997. In 1999, he was convicted of criminal possession of marijuana in the fifth degree under New York Penal Law (NYPL) § 221.10. In 2010, he was convicted of criminal possession of a narcotic with intent to sell under NYPL § 220.16(1). In 2015, inexplicably, he traveled to the Dominican Republic, his country of citizenship, for a brief visit.

Upon his attempted re-entry into the US, Mr. Gomez was treated as “an alien seeking admission.” This means that he had to establish that he was not inadmissible, in order to gain admission into the US. Perhaps this treatment came as a surprise to him; after all, generally, a permanent resident will not be treated as an alien seeking admission when he returns from a brief trip abroad.

Anyway, because of his two drug convictions, Mr. Gomez could not establish that he was not inadmissible: a permanent resident who has been convicted of or who admits to committing a drug offense is inadmissible. Mr. Gomez was put into removal proceedings. This was a predictable and avoidable result.

The immigration judge ordered him removed, the BIA affirmed, and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals denied Mr. Gomez’s petition for review and his motion for a stay of removal. Mr. Gomez rolled the dice and lost, which is very unfortunate for him and for his loved ones who depend on his presence in the US.

It is one thing to knowingly take the risk and lose; it is quite another thing to bring risk into your life, into your family home, unwittingly. With a consultation from an immigration attorney, you can make sure that any risk you take is one you are conscious of.