Category: Witness tampering

Asylum Fraud In Chinatown

The New York Times published a story over the weekend discussing asylum fraud in Chinatown, NY. The article spoke about the widespread fraud in asylum applications, with attorneys, clergy, and paralegals helping applicants fabricate stories to shore up their asylum applications. The fraud has led to the indictment of several people, including eight attorneys. The indictments came as the result of a federal investigation, which recorded several individuals coaching their clients. The fraudulent applications have led to severe backlogs at the asylum office in New York, with more than 7000 applications files in 2012. 
What really surprised me that the majority of indicted attorneys still believe that they did not commit any illegal acts. They simply believed that they were helping these applicants stay in the United States. This is clearly a violation of the ABA Model Rule of Professional Conduct 1.2(d), which prohibits aiding a client in committing fraud.  
Throughout my years of practicing immigration law, I have been asked to commit fraud by potential new clients and clients I represented. Usually, these conversations are very brief and end after I ask that person to leave my office or when I file a motion to withdraw if I am representing the person in removal proceedings or before the Service. I know that people would want to blame all lawyers for this conduct. However, like in other any profession, there are attorneys who choose to sell their reputation for money. 
I am reminded of one of the last scenes of one of my favorite movies “A Few Good Men“, when one of the defendants asks the other “what did we do wrong?.” The answer was “we were supposed to help people who could not help themselves”. As attorneys, and particularly immigration attorneys, we are entrusted with helping the weak apply to stay in the Land of the Free. We have taken oaths that we would not take cases for personal gains. I believe that these attorneys should receive the strictest punishment available under the law.  I will keep you updated on this case.  

Eighth Circuit Rules that Witness Tampering is an Aggravated Felony

In a decision issued last month, the Eighth Circuit ruled that Nebraska’s witness tampering statute is an aggravated felony under the Act and is thus a deportable offense. In Lugunas, the alien was convicted of witness tampering under Nebraska’s witness tampering statute. He was placed in removal proceedings and charged with being deportable for committing an aggravated felony. He moved to terminate the proceedings and the immigration judge denied his motion. The BIA upheld and he petitioner for review.
An alien is deportable under the Act if he was convicted of an aggravated felony. Witness tampering is an aggravated felony because it relates to obstruction of justice. In denying the petition and upholding the BIA’s decision, the Eighth Circuit reasoned that the witness tampering statute requires both the actus reus of interfering with witnesses and the intent to interfere with justice.
The Eleventh Circuit has not ruled on whether witness tampering is an aggravated felony. There is a circuit split on the issue and the question might be ripe for review by the Supreme Court.