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Jason Dzubow on Political Asylum

Full Disclosure: What Your Lawyer Doesn’t Know Can Hurt You

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My friend, who is a keen observer of the Immigration Court and USCIS (and who wishes to remain anonymous), has noticed that clients often hide or forget information that effects their cases:


There are surprises in life we all wish we could avoid. Finding a hair in your meal at your favorite restaurant comes to mind, but for lawyers there is an even worse scenario: Showing up to court (or an immigration interview) only to find out that YOU (the client) have failed to tell the lawyer the most important information about your case. Imagine being "surprised" by the government's trial attorney or an immigration officer with (for example) the revelation that his/her clients has an aggravated felony conviction and is not eligible for the relief sought.





Tell your lawyer everything and you will increase your chances of success.


Though the above example above might seem extreme, it never ceases to amaze me the information that clients seem to "forget" to share with their lawyer: from the fact that they are awaiting trial for two or three misdemeanors (which occurred within three months of the client's immigration hearing) to changes in domicile that can cause the case to change venue (move to
another location) at the last minute.


The failure to share crucial information with your lawyer is akin to not telling your doctor you have clotting problems as he prepares to do surgery on you. Imagine the complications that would arise in the operating room!


Not having all the facts of the case could be worse than being lied to, (which most seasoned professionals can spot a mile away) since it makes the lawyer look unprepared and negates all the work and effort he/she might have put into the case! As the saying goes, "Forewarned is forearmed": If a lawyer knows what the issues are, he/she can prepare accordingly and present the best possible case.


Perhaps what's even more shocking is the fact that clients often "forget" to mention facts that can help their attorney build a stronger case and present a more convincing argument. There are even times when information not shared might have opened the door to more options when it comes to relief before the court or CIS. When presented too late, this information is of no help to the applicant.


Some information you should always share with your attorney (but that routinely seems to be overlooked) is:


- Arrest: No matter when or where they took place. Whether you live on the East or West Coast. Arrest that happened ANYWHERE in or outside the country do count!!! DUI and DWI should always be mentioned! Even if you were not convicted and someone told you the case would be purged.


- Convictions: Once again, no matter when or where these happened. All of the above information regarding arrests applies here.


- Stays in a third country (a country that is not your home country and that is not the United States) no matter what the length.


- Previous applications that you might have filed before USCIS (including INS), the Asylum Office or the Immigration Court.


- Witnesses: The availability or absence of witnesses might be crucial to a case.


- Medical Conditions: Whether they are yours, a family member's or a witness's.


- The number of ALL people living in your house and their relationship to you.


- The immigration status of all your relatives living in the United States. If you have relatives who previously lived here and left, you should tell your attorney about them as well.


In short, the more you tell your lawyer, the more he/she can help you with your case. Finally, remember that everything you tell your attorney is confidential--the attorney is not allowed to reveal this information to anyone.  By giving your attorney all the information, you increase your chance for a successful outcome in your case.

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