Our office received approval of both the I-485 Application to Adjust Status to Permanent Residence and the I-601 Application of Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility for a citizen of Pakistan. Our client was subject to a life-time bar from being admitted to the United States as a lawful permanent resident due to conviction of multiple crimes involving moral turpitude under INA Section 212(a)(2)(A)(i)(I).
Our client was previously granted asylum and living lawfully inside the United States when he was convicted of two misdemeanor crimes over 15 years ago and sentenced to 11 months of probation. Our office was engaged by the client to prepare and file the I-485 Application to Adjust Status package based on his marriage to a U.S. citizen spouse, as well as prepare and submit the I-601 “extreme hardship” waiver due to his inadmissibility for conviction of multiple CIMT (“Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude”).
We provided the client with a detailed letter going over the the I-485 Adjustment of Status process, including a comprehensive checklist of documents for him and his spouse to gather and return to our office. We prepared all of the required USCIS forms; verified that every piece of information required by the USCIS was answered accurately; and submitted a meticulously prepared Adjustment of Status package to the USCIS while simultaneously preparing the I-601 “extreme hardship” waiver.
I initiated our firm’s comprehensive process for preparation of powerful and effective immigration waiver applications. I forwarded our Extreme Hardship Worksheet to my clients, which contains questions designed to elicit extreme hardships and other persuasive factors. I also recommended the couple to a clinical psychologist well-versed in preparing psychological evaluations for immigration waivers and who offers a significantly discounted fee for my clients (please refer to my post on the elements of a powerful psychological evaluation for I-601 waiver applications for more details).
Once we identified the most important factors of the case, we prepared a comprehensive legal brief going over how the facts and circumstances of my client’s situation met the legal standards used to define “extreme hardship.” We prepared a 31 page legal memorandum thoroughly presenting relevant case law as well as the extreme hardship and discretionary factors relevant to this case. A detailed table of exhibits providing objective proof of every crucial assertion made in our waiver was also included, as it is with all of our waiver applications.
Section 212(a)(2)(A) of the Immigration & Nationality Act states, in pertinent parts:
(i) Any alien convicted of, or who admits having committed, or who admits committing acts which constitute the essential elements of-
(I) a crime involving moral turpitude (other than a purely political offense) or an attempt or conspiracy to commit such a crime . . . is inadmissible.
(ii) Exception.-Clause (i)(I) shall not apply to an alien who committed only one crime if-
(I) the crime was committed when the alien was under 18 years of age, and the crime was committed (and the alien was released from any confinement to a prison or correctional institution imposed for the crime) more than 5 years before the date of the application for a visa or other documentation and the date of application for admission to the United States, or
(II) the maximum penalty possible for the crime of which the alien was convicted (or which the alien admits having committed or of which the acts that the alien admits having committed constituted the essential elements) did not exceed imprisonment for one year and, if the alien was convicted of such crime, the alien was not sentenced to a term of imprisonment in excess of 6 months (regardless of the extent to which the sentence was ultimately executed).
The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) held in Matter of Perez-Contreras, 20 I&N Dec. 615, 617-18 (BIA 1992), that:
[M]oral turpitude is a nebulous concept, which refers generally to conduct that shocks the public conscience as being inherently base, vile, or depraved, contrary to the rules of morality and the duties owed between man and man, either one’s fellow man or society in general.. ..In determining whether a crime involves moral turpitude, we consider whether the act is accompanied by a vicious motive or corrupt mind. Where knowing or intentional conduct is an element of an offense, we have found moral turpitude to be present. However, where the required mens rea may not be determined from the statute, moral turpitude does not inhere.
Section 212(h) of the Act provides, in pertinent part, that:
(h) Waiver of subsection (a)(2)(A)(i)(I), (II), (B), (D), and (E).-The Attorney General [now the Secretary of Homeland Security, “Secretary”] may, in [her] discretion, waive the application of subparagraphs (A)(i)(I) … of subsection (a)(2) if-
(B) in the case of,an immigrant who is the spouse, parent, son, or daughter of a citizen of the United States or an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence if it established to the satisfaction of the [Secretary] that the alien’s denial of admission would result in extreme hardship to the United States citizen or lawfully resident spouse, parent, son, or daughter of such alien.
(2) the [Secretary], in [her] discretion, and pursuant to such terms, conditions and procedures as [she] may by regulations prescribe, has consented to the alien’s applying or reapplying for a visa, for admission to the United States, or adjustment of status.
Extreme hardship is “not a definable term of fixed and inflexible content or meaning,” but “necessarily depends upon the facts and circumstances peculiar to each case.” Matter of Hwang, 10 I&N Dec. 448, 451 (BIA 1964). In Matter of Cervantes-Gonzalez, the Board provided a list of factors it deemed relevant in determining whether an alien has established extreme hardship to a qualifying relative. 22 I&N Dec. 560, 565 (BIA 1999). The factors include the presence of a lawful permanent resident or United States citizen spouse or parent in this country; the qualifying relative’s family ties outside the United States; the conditions in the country or countries to which the qualifying relative would relocate and the extent of the qualifying relative’s ties in such countries; the financial impact of departure from this country; and significant conditions of health, particularly when tied to an unavailability of suitable medical care in the country to which the qualifying relative would relocate. Id. The Board added that not all of the foregoing factors need be analyzed in any given case and emphasized that the list of factors was not exclusive. Id . at 566.
The Board has also held that the common or typical results of removal and inadmissibility do not constitute extreme hardship, and has listed certain individual hardship factors considered common rather than extreme. These factors include: economic disadvantage, loss of current employment, inability to maintain one’s present standard of living, inability to pursue a chosen profession, separation from family members, severing community ties, cultural readjustment after living in the United States for many years, cultural adjustment of qualifying relatives who have never lived outside the United States, inferior economic and educational opportunities in the foreign country, or inferior medical facilities in the foreign country. See generally Matter of Cervantes-Gonzalez, 22 I&N Dec. at 568; Matter of Pilch, 21 I&N Dec. 627, 632-33 (BIA 1996); Matter of Ige, 20 I&N Dec. 880, 883 (BIA 1994); Matter of Ngai, 19 I&N Dec. 245, 246-47 (Comm’r 1984); Matter of Kim, 15 I&N Dec. 88, 89-90 (BIA 1974); Matter of Shaughnessy, 12 I&N Dec. 810, 813 (BIA 1968).
However, though hardships may not be extreme when considered abstractly or individually, the Board has made it clear that “[r]elevant factors, though not extreme in themselves, must be considered in the aggregate in determining whether extreme hardship exists.” Matter of 0-J-0-, 21 I&N Dec. 381, 383 (BIA 1996) (quoting Matter of Ige, 20 I&N Dec. at 882). The adjudicator “must consider the entire range of factors concerning hardship in their totality and determine whether the combination of hardships takes the case beyond those hardships ordinarily associated with deportation.” Id.
The actual hardship associated with an abstract hardship factor such as family separation, economic disadvantage, cultural readjustment, et cetera, differs in nature and severity depending on the unique circumstances of each case, as does the cumulative hardship a qualifying relative experiences as a result of aggregated individual hardships. See, e.g., Matter of Bing Chih Kao and Mei Tsui Lin, 23 I&N Dec. 45, 51 (BIA 2001) (distinguishing Matter of Pilch regarding hardship faced by qualifying relatives on the basis of variations in the length of residence in the United States and the ability to speak the language of the country to which they would relocate).
For example, though family separation has been found to be a common result of inadmissibility or removal, separation from family living in the United States can also be the most important single hardship factor in considering hardship in the aggregate. Salcido-Salcido v. INS, 138 F.3d 1292, 1293 (9th Cir. 1998) (quoting Contreras-Buenfil v. INS, 712 F.2d 401, 403 (9th Cir. 1983)); but see Matter of Ngai, 19 I&N Dec. at 24 7 (separation of spouse and children from applicant not extreme hardship due to conflicting evidence in the record and because applicant and spouse had been voluntarily separated from one another for 28 years).
Therefore, the AAO considers the totality of the circumstances in determining whether denial of admission would result in extreme hardship to a qualifying relative.
Some of the favorable factors that contributed to approval of this I-601 “extreme hardship” waiver for conviction of multiple crimes involving moral turpitude include the following:
- The U.S. citizen spouse suffers from three major psychiatric disorders: Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Persistent Depressive “Dysthymic” Disorder, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – Chronic, with a significant family history of psychological illness.
- The U.S. citizen spouse has a personal history of trauma that has precipitated the development of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which has now been further exacerbated by the threatened separation from her husband
- The U.S. citizen spouse suffers from asthma, sciatica, and pain due to ailments associated with advancing age. She can only manage her daily life and responsibilities due to the emotional and psychological support and physical assistance she receives from her husband
- The U.S. citizen spouse’s emotional and psychological status is considered fragile, and long-term separation from her husband will place her at substantial risk for psychiatric decompensation according to a psycho-social evaluation conducted by a licensed clinical psychologist
- The couple have significant financial debt, and are dependent on the husband’s meager income (with assistance from their adult children), to survive economically.
Our I-601 waiver also thoroughly addressed how the possible scenario of relocation from the U.S. (should the waiver not be granted and the couple be forced to relocate to Pakistan) would also cause extreme hardship to the U.S. citizen spouse:
- The couple would live in poverty and in constant fear of assault as a member of a persecuted religious minority in Pakistan;
- The U.S. citizen wife would be exposed to high risk of exposure to infectious disease in a country with third-world level medical infrastructure;
- The U.S. citizen spouse would lose access to the quality health care needed to monitor and mitigate her asthma and sciatica; no longer be able to obtain and afford necessary medications, nor be able to receive the emergency medical care needed to potentially save her life in a medical crisis;
- The U.S. citizen spouse would be unable to afford health insurance in Pakistan;
- The U.S. citizen spouse would lose access to a medical infrastructure that ensures prescriptions are refilled in a timely manner;
- The U.S. citizen spouse would lose access to competent mental health treatment services at a time when she will be under extraordinary stress and most in need of such services;
- The U.S. citizen spouse would face stigma associated with mental illness and her religious status, impairing her re-integration into Pakistan’s culture and society;
- The U.S. citizen spouse would have virtually no job prospects given that she has little employment experience, very limited education, the high rate of unemployment in Pakistan, and her advancing age;
- The U.S. citizen spouse would face discrimination because of her religious status in a country that has legalized discrimination and has a history of assaults on this minority;
- The U.S. citizen spouse would be wholly separated from her family in the U.S. and unable to afford to return to the U.S. on an emergency basis.
Extreme hardship is a requirement for eligibility, but once established it is but one favorable discretionary factor to be considered. Matter of Mendez-Moralez, 21 I&N Dec. 296, 301 (BIA 1996). For waivers of inadmissibility, the burden is on the applicant to establish that a grant of a waiver of inadmissibility is warranted in the exercise of discretion. Id. at 299. The adverse factors evidencing an alien’s undesirability as a permanent resident must be balanced with the social and humane considerations presented on his behalf to determine whether the grant of relief in the exercise of discretion appears to be in the best interests of this country. Id. at 300. In Matter of Mendez-Moralez, in evaluating whether section 212(h)(1)(B) relief is warranted in the exercise of discretion, the BIA stated that:
The factors adverse to the applicant include the nature and underlying circumstances of the exclusion ground at issue, the presence of additional significant violations of this country’s immigration laws, the existence of a criminal record and, if so, its nature, recency and seriousness, and the presence of other evidence indicative of an alien’s bad character or undesirability as a permanent resident of this country . . . . The favorable considerations include family ties in the United States, residence of long duration in this country (particularly where the alien began his residency at a young age), evidence of hardship to the alien and his family if he is excluded and deported, service in this country’s Armed Forces, a history of stable employment, the existence of property or business ties, evidence of value and service to the community, evidence of genuine rehabilitation if a criminal record exists, and other evidence attesting to the alien’s good character (e.g., affidavits from family, friends, and responsible community representatives). Id. at 301.
The BIA further states that upon review of the record as a whole, a balancing of the equities and adverse matters must be made to determine whether discretion should be favorably exercised. The equities that the applicant for relief must bring forward to establish that he merits a favorable exercise of administrative discretion will depend in each case on the nature and circumstances of the ground of exclusion sought to be waived and on the presence of any additional adverse matters, and as the negative factors grow more serious, it becomes incumbent upon the applicant to introduce additional offsetting favorable evidence. Id. at 301.
In this case, we also discussed and presented proof of every factor we determined to be important for purposes of securing approval of the I-601 waiver. We determine these factors based upon close analysis of the clients’ personal situations as well as upon my experience of obtaining approval of I-601, I-212, I-601A, and 212(d)(3) waivers for the past 17 years. These factors included but were not limited to:
- A summary discussion of the convictions for crimes involving moral turpitude, as well as any extenuating circumstances that led to the violations and the corresponding the sentence received
- The applicant’s long period of residence and productive service inside the United States including the presence of a U.S. citizen spouse and several U.S. citizen children
- The applicant being well-respected in the local religious community of his faith
- The applicant’s tremendous efforts to raise law-abiding children and support their higher education, which led to all of his children attaining bachelor-level university degrees or higher
- Numerous sworn-affidavits by family, friends, and prominent officials in a position to judge the character and rehabilitation of the applicant
As a result of our efforts, both the I-485 Application to Adjust Status to Permanent Residence and the I-601 Application of Waiver of Inadmissiblity were approved and this couple can continue to reside lawfully inside the United States.