How Failing to Select the Right Legal Counsel Can Have a Catastrophic Impact on Your Asylum Application… and You

If you need to seek asylum in the United States, you may understand that you need to complete the legal process of applying for asylum and that a skilled Maryland immigration attorney can help you achieve a successful result on that application. What you may not know, however, is that this step involves more than hiring any attorney. To best protect yourself and give yourself the maximum chance of a successful outcome, you need to best you’re selecting not just an attorney but rather the right attorney.

Attorney misconduct is harmful to any client victimized by it. However, some clients bear an especially high risk. For asylum applicants, competent representation is especially crucial, as (much like some criminal defendants) the difference between success and failure may literally be a matter of life and death.

The harrowing story of one Cameroonian man who narrowly avoided deportation is an example of exactly this.

F.H.F. entered the U.S. at San Ysidro, California in March 2019. ICE scheduled a deportation hearing for June 6, 2019. The man’s aunt hired a Maryland attorney, K.T., to file his asylum petition for him. The immigrant sought to meet with his attorney before the hearing. The attorney promised that they would, but they did not.

The attorney gave the client a blank asylum form to complete and return. According to the immigration court, the submitted application suffered from numerous errors as a result of the attorney’s failure to “adequately explain the application process… and review the final application with [the client] before it was filed with the court.”

Later that summer, the aunt sent the lawyer F.H.F.’s National Identification Card from the Cameroonian government, which was the immigrant’s lone form of photographic identification. The lawyer subsequently lost that ID card.

The immigrant and his attorney met in person exactly once, for one-half hour, two weeks before the merits hearing. According to the immigration judge, the attorney “failed to adequately explain the asylum process… or prepare” the client for the hearing. According to the client, the lawyer never explained to him what he needed to prove and “did not go over the questions” the attorney would ask him at the hearing.

After the merits hearing, the judge ruled against F.H.F., in part because of the absence of any form of photographic identification. The court ordered the man deported. The attorney filed an appeal, but it also failed.

At this point, the man authorized his aunt to find a new attorney. She retained a different Maryland lawyer, T.T., to file a motion to reopen the appeal and to “file the necessary paperwork to secure his release on parole or bond.” That lawyer, despite the aunt’s considerable follow-up and communication, did not timely file the motion to reopen the appeal or secure his release.

An 11th-Hour Reprieve

ICE arranged the deportation, putting F.H.F. on a plane from Louisiana to Texas and scheduling him for deportation from Texas to Cameroon on Nov. 10.

Cameroonian deportees face especially dire risks. According to a report from the San Diego Union-Tribune, the “Cameroonian government, controlled by French-speaking groups, has been targeting English-speaking cultural groups, known as anglophones, for years,” including executing many of them. When signing one of his deportation forms, the applicant stated that he felt that he was signing his “death papers.”

Fortunately, the man hired a third lawyer in the summer of 2020, who diligently pursued the immigrant’s case from the start of her representation. That attorney filed an emergency motion to stay the client’s deportation, which the Board of Immigration Appeals granted on Nov. 9, just one day before the man’s scheduled flight back to Cameroon.

When looking for a knowledgeable, diligent, and detail-oriented legal advocate to handle your asylum application case, look to the Maryland asylum application attorneys at Anthony A. Fatemi, LLC. Our team is dedicated to giving all our asylum clients the best possible representation to maximize your chances of success. Contact us today at 301-519-2801 or via our online form to set up your consultation.

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