Successfully representing immigrants — clients who often face the stiffest odds in the U.S. court system — best describes the practice of the 21 lawyers at De Mott, McChesney, Curtright & Armendáriz, five of whom are certified in immigration law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.
In 2012 alone, the San Antonio-based firm's lawyers successfully canceled removal proceedings for numerous clients, appealed and overturned a client's murder conviction, and vacated dozens of convictions based on the argument that their clients had previously received ineffective assistance of counsel because they were not warned of the consequences their criminal defense would have on their immigration proceedings.
"The De Mott firm is that great combination of smart lawyers and dedication to serving the clients' needs. They get strong results and provide a critically important service to the Latino and other immigrant communities," writes Nina Perales, vice president of litigation for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, one of the nation's leading advocacy groups for Latin Americans.
For Tom Amrollah (formerly known as Mohammad Hassan Amrollah-
Majdabadi), the efforts of De Mott partner Lance Curtright mean he can join his family in seeking to become a permanent U.S. citizen.
In 1998, Amrollah, a citizen and national of Iran, entered the United States with his wife and children through the border near Eagle Pass. An immigration judge granted Amrollah asylum in 1999, however in 2009, the government denied his application for permanent residency. A U.S. district court ruled against him on appeal. But at the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Curtright's argument persuaded the three-judge panel to reverse the district court.
In its March 4 opinion, the 5th Circuit panel disagreed with the government's appellate argument "that Amrollah is inadmissible" under an expanded 2010 statute, 8 U.S.C. §1182(a)(3)(B)(vi)(III) (2010), which broadens the definition of providing support for a material organization to those who provide support to individuals, organized or not, who engage in terrorist activity. Amrollah had worked in 1979 as a pharmacist in Iran when he began providing medical assistance to the Mujahideen movement, aid for which he was subsequently arrested twice by Iranian authorities, the 5th Circuit wrote.
If Amrollah had been worthy of asylum based on the evidence in 1999, then the same evidence should allow him to apply for permanent residency, the 5th Circuit ruled in Amrollah v. Napolitano.
"This case turned concerns about terrorism on its head," Curtright says. Amrollah "was giving help to people being tortured by the Iranians."
Curtright and his partners — who have a combined 193 years of experience — know their clients' concerns and rights often land in the forefront of the public's mind, particularly at a time when immigration reform percolates as a hotly debated political topic. But that doesn't stop the De Mott firm from working hard to ensure the same Constitution that protects Americans also protects immigrants.
Jorge Aristotelidis, a De Mott partner in San Antonio who represents criminal defendants, including undocumented and documented immigrants, recently successfully helped a client dismiss previous shoplifting convictions to which she had pleaded guilty. They were barring her application for permanent U.S. residency.
Aristotelidis won by arguing that she had received ineffective assistance of counsel during her shoplifting case since her lawyer then had not told her the immigration consequences of pleading guilty.
Aristotelidis says the district judge asked him, "Why should I allow an undocumented shoplifter" a pathway to permanent citizenship?"
Aristotelidis' answer: "Even undocumented shoplifters are entitled to due process and effective counsel under our Constitution," he says.