Eugenio and Marissa Lopez (names changed for privacy reasons) entered the United States in 1984 as visitors. Their third child, Jenny was born in the United States shortly after their arrival.  For nearly thirty years they waited and fought to obtain lawful status. Their journey to lawful status was undermined and complicated by the ineffective assistance they received from their first attorney which persisted for over 10 years and cost the couple many many thousands of dollars.  But with the help of Reeves & Associates (R&A) they finally became lawful permanent residents in April of 2012.

The joy and relief the couple felt at achieving lawful status is best described in their own words: Today, we can now begin planning again for the future with our children and their own growing families as part of our daily lives and not ocean’s away from us. We can now be assured that we will be witnessing our (so far) only grandchild grow to up to be a young man. There is not enough words to convey our feeling of being FREE again.  No more of those eerie feelings that someone’s looking for us and take us away from the people we love. We can now begin planning permanently on putting our lives back on track…THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!

They have requested that we share their story with the public so that others in similar situations may find hope and a path to lawful status. After spending many years in the United States without work authorization, the couple began searching for an attorney to assist them to obtain a green card.  In 1999, after seeing an Attorney’s advertisement in a local newspaper, they met with him and this attorney appeared personable, caring, and sympathetic to their situation.

The Attorney filed for asylum and obtain work authorization for them based on an application for asylum.  This marked the beginning of a decade of frustration and struggle. In March of 2000, the couple was interviewed regarding their claim for asylum.  Their applications were denied and they were referred to the Deportation Court.  In court they were represented by same attorney who now applied for cancellation of removal.

The Judge denied their applications, finding the attorney failed to establish extreme hardship to a qualifying U.S. citizen or LPR relative.   The couple continued with the same attorney who then filed an appeal with the Board of immigration Appeals (BIA). In 2005 the BIA denied the appeal from the Immigration Judge’s decision.  The Board’s decision affirmed the denial of the cancellation of removal applications and allowed the couple 60 days within which to voluntarily depart the United States. The couple’s attorney erroneously advised the couple they could stay in the US so long as they filed an appeal with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

In reality the attorney should have filed a request for stay of voluntary departure with the petition for review.  This error further complicated the couple’s case.   In December of 2005, 51 days after the Board denied the appeal, the couple’s U.S. citizen daughter celebrated her 21st birthday.  Their attorney was aware of this fact, but did not advise the couple to file a motion to reopen with the BIA despite the fact that such motion would have been timely and possibly successful.  In June of 2006 the Attorney finally filed a motion to reopen. The motion was untimely and the attorney did not argue any exception to the timeliness requirement.

The Board denied the couple’s motion to reopen as untimely. Upon receiving the denial of the motion to reopen from the Board, the couple discussed their case with their Attorney and were advised that the denial was erroneous that they could file a motion to reconsider with the Board.  At each stage of the case their attorney charged very substantial additional fees.

The Attorney then filed a motion to reconsider with the Board and for the first time addressed the issue of the untimeliness of the motion to reopen.  However, again the Attorney failed despite assuring the couple of the high probability of success and charging even more legal fees. Following this denial by the BIA, the attorney advised the couple to file an appeal with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and again assured them they had a good chance of success. In July of 2008, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals  denied the couple’s petitions for review.  After learning of the denial of the petitions for review, Eugenio and Marissa again met with the attorney.

The attorney advised them to file another motion to reopen with the BIA and that there was a good chance they could now win. With renewed hope, the couple paid even legal fees to file another motion to reopen. On February 20, 2009, the Board issued a decision denying the motion to reopen as untimely. The attorney informed Eugenio and Marissa of the Board’s February 20, 2009 decision.  The Attorney informed them that he had done everything possible to win their case. but there was nothing else he could do and the best thing to do would be to wait and hope for a change in the immigration law, an amnesty.

Family members suggested that it was time for them to seek a better attorney.  In February of 2011, the couple retained Reeves & Associates (R&A) to review their case and determine if there were any options.  After reviewing their enormous legal file the couple was advised by Attorney Ben Loveman of Reeves & Associates’ San Francisco Office, that their past attorney made many mistakes in their case. The couple retained R&A to represent them before the BIA on the basis of their prior attorney’s negligence.

The court agreed and granted R&A’s motion to reopen the couple’s case.  Their case was then remanded to the Immigration Trial Court.  Less than one year after retaining Reeves & Associates the couple was granted lawful permanent residency (green cards).  Eugenio and Marissa’s 30 year nightmare was finally over.

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