Cases & Deals

Jones Day stops deportation of political asylee

Clients Karimi, Ali Sina

Mr. Ali Karimi and his family were granted asylum in the United States because of political persecution in Afghanistan and Iran. But Mr. Karimi's asylee status was jeopardized when he pleaded guilty to a minor assault charge in Maryland. According to Mr. Karimi, a police officer gripped and squeezed his face so that the officer's fingernails broke his skin, and Mr. Karimi grabbed the officer's hand to remove it from his face. This exchange formed the basis of the assault charge. Mr. Karimi's plea colloquy on the assault charge reflected only that he grabbed the officer's hand, causing no harm whatever. Mr. Karimi states that he pleaded guilty to the charge because he was offered a favorable plea deal that avoided the risks of trial – he did not know at the time that the Department of Homeland Security would treat his misdemeanor assault conviction as an "aggravated felony" conviction under federal law, which allows the government to terminate an alien's asylum status and deport him. An Immigration Judge and the Board of Immigration Appeals ("BIA") did just that, despite Mr. Karimi's arguments that his conviction did not involve the violent force characteristic of an aggravated felony. Mr. Karimi was in jail over three years during the pendency of his immigration proceedings, even though his underlying conviction involved no prison sentence. The Fourth Circuit appointed Jones Day to represent Mr. Karimi on his petition to the Circuit Court following his loss at the BIA. The determination of whether Mr. Karimi's conviction was for a "violent crime," and thus an "aggravated felony," turned largely on what evidence formed the basis of Mr. Karimi's conviction. This question was complicated by Maryland's practice of adopting police reports as charging documents. Jones Day, however, persuasively argued the protections of the Sixth Amendment, causing the Court to consider only Mr. Karimi's admission in the plea colloquy that he grabbed the officer's hand, causing no harm. From there, the Court found that this admission did not involve the "violent" force requisite of an "aggravated felony." The Court published its opinion and made new law, extending its Sixth Amendment precedents as advocated by Jones Day. The Court granted Mr. Karimi's petition, and ordered the BIA to reinstate his asylum.

Karimi v. Holder, Nos. 11-1929, 12-1076, 2013 BL 125615 (4th Cir. May 13, 2013)

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