The Past Can Haunt You Can a Minor Crime Ruin Your American Dream?
America was founded on the principle of people coming here from all over the world — a melting pot of hardworking individuals limited only by their imagination and work ethic. While it hasn’t always worked out that way, I still believe that diversity is one of the most American values we have and that our strength as a nation depends on it. Growing up, I didn’t live in a particularly diverse neighborhood. Most of the people I saw every day were Cuban-Americans, like myself. But they’d all come here pursuing that dream, and as I got older, I saw that dream existed in every neighborhood, regardless of its residents’ backgrounds. This nation wasn’t founded by people who “had it great” where they came from, and I recently had the privilege of representing someone who reminded me of that. I believe he will be a fine American citizen in a few years. He’s a hardworking guy from another country who, in the past, had a little bad luck. He wound up in court over a minor marijuana charge, and he waived his right to an attorney. It’s always a bad idea to do that, but he didn’t know any better — a fact that would become important. Fast-forward many years and he’s now married to an American citizen and wants to start the process of becoming a lawful permanent resident — the first
step on the road toward citizenship. He has a great job, works hard, and believes in all the things that we Americans do. Unfortunately, that marijuana charge rose up from the past, and it looked pretty grim for a minute. His immigration attorney sent him over to us. We said to the court, “Look, he was basically railroaded into this charge. It was a misdemeanor charge, and he technically waived his right to an attorney, but nobody ever explained why he needed one!” The court vacated the conviction and set him up for an actual trial. On the day of the trial, his charges were dismissed. Now, he’s free to continue on with his path to residency, unencumbered by past criminal history that came from bad luck. You don’t need to be an immigrant to be plagued by past charges, though. We all make mistakes; have bad days; and can be denied jobs, security clearance, and even housing based on those bad days and little mistakes. If you are an immigrant, though, you’ll have an even tougher time. But there may be good news for you — just as there was for this client — and we’d like to help you out. Past charges can be revisited, reopened, and often put to rest. Like I said, I believe that diversity is an American value. Justice is an American value, too. Are you ready to get your own justice?
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