HOUSTON, TX (June 29, 2010) — One of the nation’s largest immigration law firms recently obtained a U. S. Supreme Court victory in the case of Alexis v. Holder.
Members of the litigation team successfully argued that Mr. Richard Lawrence Alexis, a legal U.S. resident originally from Trinidad and Tobago, should be allowed to present his request for cancellation of removal to the immigration judge. In a decision made on June 21, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court granted the petition for writ of certiori, vacated the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals’ original judgment and remanded the case for further consideration in light of another recent decision, Carachuri-Rosendo v. Holder.
“We are very pleased to have obtained this favorable decision for Mr. Alexis,” said Magali Candler, head of the litigation group. “The Court acknowledged the validity of our argument and preserved our client’s right to apply to remain in the United States as a legal resident.” Although Alexis had been living as a legal U.S. resident for nearly 20 years, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) initiated removal proceedings against him in 2007 based on two prior minor offenses. Attorneys requested the opportunity to apply for cancellation of removal from the immigration judge, based on their client’s long-time presence in the U.S., relatives living in the country, ties to the community and other equities.
The immigration judge, based on the precedent from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, agreed with the argument presented by ICE that, based on Alexis’ two prior offenses, he could have been prosecuted as a recidivist under federal law and as a result, he could have been convicted of a felony offense. Consequently, ICE argued that, under current law, aggravated felons are not eligible to apply for cancellation, and therefore Alexis should not be given an opportunity.
The firm appealed this decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals, arguing that the Texas district attorney chose not to prosecute Alexis as a repeat offender, making the fact that he could have been prosecuted irrelevant. The board upheld the judge’s decision, and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the petition for review. On subsequent appeal, the Supreme Court overturned the Fifth Circuit’s interpretation. With this decision, he is now able to apply for cancellation of removal.
Alexandre Afanassiev, who was lead attorney on the case, was assisted by attorneys Bruce Godzina and Raed Gonzalez. Afanassiev also credited arguments presented by the University of Houston Law Center’s Immigration Clinic in the recent Carachuri-Rosendo case as an integral part of the brief his firm prepared on Alexis’ behalf. Afanassiev added that both he and Godzina are former members of the university’s immigration clinic and they are especially pleased that the firm continues to support the clinic’s work and is one of its benefactors.
“This decision should provide greater protection for legal U.S. residents facing similar circumstances in the future,” said Afanassiev. “This is an example of how the firm’s in-depth experience and access to resources allows us to provide comprehensive immigration legal services to our clients.”