November 19, 2009 7:49 PM   Subscribe

Any advice for our Nanny who is seeking citizenship?

Here's the situation: Our nanny has been going through the citizenship process for years. She is a Mexican citizen who immigrated here illegally 21 years ago. Her husband is a naturalized American Citizen (and yes, they married for love) and with his help, she thought she was just about there. Her final hearing is next week. Here's the snag. She has been in the U.S. for 21 years. However, in 1999, she went back to Mexico to bury her mother. According to her attorney, here are her alternatives: If she admits this at the hearing, they will deport her. If she lies about going back and they have the record of her going back in 1999, they will deport her. If she lies about it and they do not have the record, she will become a citizen. Is this correct? If so, it would certainly seem to push her to take her chance and lie (or, as the Attorney advised, she can also skip the hearing and remain an illegal as she has for the last 21 years, but she isn't going to do this).
And here's the kicker. If she decides to lie, the Attorney, who has already been paid, will not accompany her to the hearing. This seems unethical to me. Is it? She would also very much like her attorney there to answer any questions she can't answer.
What are her options? At this point, she is thinking that she is going to go in without the attorney and lie if the question is asked.
Your thoughts? And I know YANAL (except for those of you who are).
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (9 answers total)
It's unethical for the attorney to be present when she is lying? Are you serious? What ethical attorney would countenance his client lying?
posted by dfriedman at 7:53 PM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Ask another attorney?
posted by amtho at 8:08 PM on November 19, 2009

If she decides to lie, the Attorney, who has already been paid, will not accompany her to the hearing. This seems unethical to me. Is it?

Absolutely not. A lawyer cannot mislead a court/tribunal, nor can he allow his client to mislead the tribunal. Since he also can't breach his duty of confidence, he simply doesn't show up. Then he isn't put in the position of having to correct his client, or imply that his client is lying in order to fulfill his duty to the tribunal.
posted by Dasein at 8:35 PM on November 19, 2009

The lawyer's ethical duty is to be an honest advocate for his client. His ethical duty is not to
be present if his client decides to lie.

The lawyer is first concerned with his professional reputation and standing and secondarily concerned with getting his client the result she wants. He is not goin to jeopardize his own standing in his profession in order to be present if his client decides to lie.

That you would construe this decision as unethical suggests you need to re-think the attorney-client relationship.
posted by dfriedman at 8:42 PM on November 19, 2009

That you would construe this decision as unethical suggests you need to re-think the attorney-client relationship.

To be fair, dfriedman, I think one point of OP's post was to ask for some guidance about what the attorney-client relationship consists of in the first place, and what it calls for in this situation.

OP simply said: "This seems unethical to me. Is it?", implying that it looks unethical from the perspective of someone unversed in this area of expertise, but that the OP wasn't sure and wanted clarification. The OP's initial reaction to the lawyer's decision was a very reasonable one, and probably quite common.

It's good that you explain why the attorney is actually acting ethicially, but I don't think the OP will find comments like "Are you serious?" helpful or informative.
posted by HabeasCorpus at 9:05 PM on November 19, 2009

IANAL, but someone who has dealt with US immigration. I think she needs a second opinion - one from a lawyer who specializes in cases like hers. There are lots of immigration attorneys who specialize in dealing with very similar types of case over and over, and if this lawyer isn't one of them she needs one who is. US immigration is tricky and technical, and there are lots of opportunities to trip up over minor things like the trip back to Mexico, but it's rarely as cut and dried as this lawyer seems to be saying.

Also, is there a language issue between her and the lawyer (questions she can't answer)? She deserves representation she's certain she can clearly communicate with.

If it's at all within her means, I'd suggest she contact one of the big immigrant's right orgs for a referral asap. Sorry I don't have specific suggestions of who to ask.
posted by crabintheocean at 10:18 PM on November 19, 2009

I am most definitely not a lawyer, but is temporarily getting another attorney possible for the purposes of what appears to largely be supervising a procedural matter?

As for the question itself, I would say that aside from making the decision itself, how did your nanny get into Mexico and back to the U.S. if she was an illegal immigrant? I don't know how the system works in practice (I'm not an American), but surely some shenanigans had to have been put into effect for this to be possible? Either way, I imagine researching how long this information is kept on file would be sensible. However, if she is, as you describe it, effectively a hearing away from acquiring citizenship, then surely at a much earlier stage in the process this kind of thing would have been checked. Common sense, to me, would involve a cursory background check of someone's movement across borders, if only to save the immigration authorities the trouble of what by all accounts is a pretty extensive (and extended!) process.
posted by jaffacakerhubarb at 10:26 PM on November 19, 2009

Possibility #4 is that she lies about returning to Mexico, immigration buys it, she becomes a citizen, but then immigration finds out later. In this case they could revoke her citizenship (as it was obtained via misrepresentation) and deport her. If they buy the story upfront, I don't know how they'd ever learn otherwise sometime later, but if they do it would be trouble.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 4:17 AM on November 20, 2009

OK, I'm confused, what is she going to lie about? Entry in 1988? Departure and reentry in 1999? Both? Unlawful presence for 21 years and for 10 years carries the same penalty, so what's the problem?
posted by Pollomacho at 12:14 PM on November 20, 2009

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