The Big Comeback!

In sports it’s a newsworthy event when a team wins a game after making a heroic comeback. Around this time last year (Feb. 26, 2023), when it seemed like my favorite basketball team—the Los Angeles Lakers—was about to suffer a blowout loss from Dallas Mavericks (27-point difference by the second quarter), the Angelinos made a thrilling comeback to win the game by three (3) points. Such wins indeed are surreal! Well, some immigration cases feel the same and I’m going to tell you about one.

Our client JR (name concealed for privacy) from Honduras, entered the United States in 1995, at age 17, as an unaccompanied minor. Subsequently he was placed in deportation proceedings. Regrettably, he received no hearing notices from the Court, despite the Court mailing out two (2) (both were returned back to Court by the courier). And about four (4) months after his entry, he was ordered deported in-absentia. Although uncommon for minor migrants, upon learning of the deportation order, JR acted diligently to rectify the situation. He obtained an attorney and filed a motion to reopen before the Immigration Court. The Immigration Judge, however, denied the motion. Although JR appealed the denial to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), the latter upheld the denial. Accordingly, nearly two (2) years after starting his pursuit of the American dream, the 17-year-old JR, was already losing big. He had a pending deportation order and in hopes of rectifying it, he had wasted his only motion to reopen (generally applicants are permitted to file only one motion to reopen). Luckily for him, as a Honduran national, he obtained Temporary Protected Status (TPS) which safeguarded him from the execution of the deportation order.

We met JR back in 2018, 23 years into his journey. He still had his TPS and was married to a United States citizen. Still, the prospects of residency or foreign travel were dimmed by that 1995 deportation order and the wasted motion to reopen. Thus, right off the bat it was clear that it would take several great plays and some lucky shots to pull off the comeback if it were to happen. JR was aware of the chances. But he was determined to roll the dice hoping to see his elderly father one last time after not seeing him for 23 years. We kicked off the play by filing a family petition on behalf of JR’s United States citizen spouse. The petition was approved within a year. Then we proceeded to file a request before the U.S. government asking them to join us in a motion to reopen and terminate JR’s deportation proceedings. To our surprise and delight, we received a favorable response in less than two (2) months (usually takes years). Afterwards, we proceeded to file the joint motion. Fast forward another few months, and JR no longer had the deportation order. Although that was a huge milestone and a great relief, he still could not apply for residency in the United States because he did not have lawful entry. Next, we applied for advance parole through his TPS so that JR could finally visit his elderly father and upon return also have lawful entry into the United States. JR visited his dad and entered the United States lawfully in January of 2023. After which we proceeded to the last and final step of his journey, filing for adjustment of status (residency). Sadly, while the residency application was pending, JR’s spouse passed away. Nonetheless, the comeback succeeded. In January of 2024, JR, ended his uphill battle with a victory—a residency that will give him the liberty he has rigorously sought for the past 27 years.

Although somewhat bitter given the years’ struggle and the toll, JR made his comeback, just like the Lakers on February 26, 2023.

Written By:
Mher Cholakhyan, Esq.

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