Law360 (January 10, 2022, 4:55 PM EST) -- The Atlanta public defender's office and a handful of Georgia-based immigrant advocacy groups urged the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on whether probation counts as confinement when determining whether an immigrant committed an aggravated felony.

The Immigration and Nationality Act can bar immigrants from receiving deportation protections if they commit an aggravated felony, which the law defines as a crime of violence that carries a "term of imprisonment at least one year."

In a friend of the court brief, the legal organizations said the justices should step in to correct a recent Eleventh Circuit decision that found a one-year probation sentence given to an immigrant who committed misdemeanor battery counted as a suspended term of imprisonment under the INA.

"The Eleventh Circuit's decision opens Pandora's box, holding that probation sentences, whether for felonies or minor misdemeanors, may now qualify as aggravated felonies," the groups told the high court. "Millions of people are on probation each year in the US, over 400,000 of them are in Georgia alone — including thousands of noncitizens."

The friend of the court filing came in the case of Alfredo Nicolas Talamantes-Enriquez, a Mexican man who pled guilty and no contest, respectively, in 2001 to two separate charges of battery, according to court records. In both cases, he was sentenced to 12-month terms of probation.

The government moved to deport Talamantes in 2017, and an immigration judge later denied his request for a reprieve, saying the battery charges counted as aggravated felonies because they were crimes of violence that came with one-year sentences.

Talamantes appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals, providing clarification orders signed by a Georgia state judge that stated the probation sentences weren't the same as a "period of confinement."

The BIA, however, ultimately backed the immigration judge's finding, and Talamantes took his case to the Eleventh Circuit, which upheld the decisions in September.

Talamantes appealed to the Supreme Court in December, arguing the Eleventh Circuit erred in interpreting probation sentences like his as terms of imprisonment.

"Other circuits have said that was in fact probation, or they have honored the clarification orders," Ashley Deadwyler-Heuman of Deadwyler-Heuman Law Firm LLC, who represents Talamantes, told Law360 on Monday.

The Georgia-based groups echoed those arguments in their amicus brief.

"This decision expands the aggravated felony definition in an unprecedented way, putting thousands of families at risk of separation from their noncitizen loved ones for even one encounter with the criminal justice system that only resulted in a probationary sentence," they said.

The federal government waived its right to file a response to Talamantes' request for high court review.

The BIA is considering whether it should treat all aggravated felonies as particularly serious crimes that disqualify migrants from deportation relief, leading experts to voice concerns that such a move could sweep up less egregious infractions.

The U.S. Department of Justice declined on Monday to comment.

The Georgia groups did not respond to requests for comment.

The Georgia organizations are represented by Lynn Damiano Pearson of Sur Legal Collaborative, and Jenny Hernandez, Claire Gildard, Amanda Johns and Amin Sadri of the City of Atlanta Office of the Public Defender.

Talamantes is represented by Ashley Deadwyler-Heuman of Deadwyler-Heuman Law Firm LLC and Jessica Stern of Stern Law LLC.

The government is represented by the DOJ Office of the Solicitor General.

The case is Talamantes-Enriquez v. Garland, case number 21-863, in the U.S. Supreme Court.

ATLANTA, GEORGIA — Jessica Stern, founder and managing (Cr)Immigration attorney at STERN Law, LLC in Atlanta, Georgia, filed a Petition for a Writ of Certiorari ("Petition") in the United States Supreme Court (“Court”), on December 7, 2021, on behalf of Petitioner Alfredo Nicolas Talamantes-Enriquez ("Petitioner" or "Talamantes"). Stern petitioned the Court to decide the issue of whether a probation sentence is one truly of straight probation or a sentence of suspended incarceration, transforming non-U.S. citizens into aggravated felons in certain circumstances even when their sentence was intended by the sentencing court to only be probation. This applies to even misdemeanor probation sentences. The Petitioner is appealing the 11th Circuit's decision, which misconstrues a probation sentence in the State of Georgia as a suspended sentence of confinement, thus ignoring the authority of a Georgia state court judge to impose a straight probation sentence. Petitioner was placed in removal proceedings, and the immigration judge upheld removability charges based on Petitioner's 2001 Simple Battery probation sentences. Stern has petitioned the Court to clarify that conflicting federal precedent should not be construed in such a way that every Georgia probation sentence is equivalent to a suspended sentence of imprisonment.

Because of the current conflict, immigration and federal courts in Georgia routinely rule that any probation sentence under Georgia law is actually a suspended sentence of imprisonment. As a result of this conflict in sentence interpretation, many individuals who have lived in the United States for many years and are otherwise eligible for relief from removal are unable to stop their deportation.

If a non-citizen is convicted of an "aggravated felony," he is barred from almost all forms of relief from deportation under the Immigration and Nationality Act ("INA"). Talamantes was denied relief from removal after an immigration judge determined that he had committed an aggravated felony based on two Georgia misdemeanor offenses. Talamantes was, in fact, removed to Mexico during his appeal process. The question of whether Talamantes would be removed came down to whether he had been convicted of an "aggravated felony" as the INA defines the term.

"Aggravated felony" is codified in 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(43), which defines "aggravated felony" as "a crime of violence . . . for which the term of imprisonment [sic] is at least one year." 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(43)(F). The Petition asserts significant support for the position that Petitioner's sentence was not a "term of imprisonment" but rather a straight probation sentence.

Talamantes was sentenced to a year of "straight probation," as clarified by a state court order issued to correct an original error in an earlier order. The sentencing court stated unequivocally that no portion of that sentence was prescribed as anything other than probation. Petitioner's case allows the highest Court to finally resolve this conflict; a straight probation sentence of 12 months issued by a state court judge should bejust that – a sentence of 12 months of probation.

"The importance of overturning the 11th Circuit's decision cannot be overstated, which is why we have filed this appeal to the United States Supreme Court. If the 11th Circuit's decision stands, it will have far-reaching consequences. Thousands of non-citizens will have their lives and families torn apart with absolute deportation if probation sentences, whether for felonies or minor misdemeanors, are now considered confinement sentences and convert their conviction into aggravated felonies," says Stern.

Stern regularly joins CNN as a legal analyst. She has discussed immigrant family separation under the Trump Administration; the cancellation of DACA, and the fate of the hundreds of thousands of non-U.S. citizens affected by it; and the government's travel bans and overall immigration and deportation policy changes. Stern is regularly invited to panels and discussions with legal practitioners, politicians, community members, policy-makers, journalists, and many other experts in the field.

To contact STERN Law for help with your (Cr)immigration case, call (404) 990-4112 or complete the contact form on their website.

About STERN Law

At STERN Law, we defend the American Dream for all non-U.S. citizens! We are not intimated by your past or your record. In fact we encourage all non-U.S. citizens with criminal records to hire us to get your criminal case dismissed or removed and to secure a legal immigration status for you and your family in the United States of America.

Trust us because we know how intimidating it is to walk into a courtroom or government building, where your freedom and liberty are at stake. We also know how hard it is to understand the legal process and the rights that you have as a non-U.S. citizen. Rest assured that if you hire STERN Law you will be made fully aware of all options surrounding your situation as well as several strategies. You will gain an experienced legal team who will use their expertise and compassion to relentlessly help you achieve your desired result.

If you feel confused, alone, or judged by the system, let STERN Law serve as your most trusted counsel.

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - STERN Law, founded by Jessica Stern, celebrates its eight year anniversary as the first 100% CrImmigration law firm in the nation. Jessica Stern, Founder/CEO and Managing Attorney at STERN Law, merged her expertise in criminal defense with her passion for helping immigrants who want a better way to confidently help non-US citizens fight criminal charges while simultaneously securing legal immigration status in the United States.

Stern says that when it comes to immigration consequences of a criminal offense, it is “important for lawyers to understand both criminal and immigration law.” CrImmigration “centers on building a fundamental understanding of criminal law, immigration, and its impact on the other.” When Stern started STERN Law, she realized that this fundamental understanding was severely lacking. For example, when a non-U.S. citizen had been accused of a crime, Stern found that their criminal defense attorney often ended up jeopardizing the non-U.S. citizen’s ability to stay in the U.S. with their families or a future path toward becoming a legal resident or citizen due to immigration law being out of the criminal defense attorney’s scope. On the other hand, even an immigration attorney’s expertise in immigration law does not equip them to proficiently advise their clients of the impact of a criminal charge or conviction.

For such a dynamic type of practice, there is something distinctly powerful about having a specialized legal team, as STERN has built. All attorneys at STERN Law are equipped to handle both criminal and immigration scenarios due to their scope of knowledge surrounding both disciplines. Because they understand both criminal defense and immigration, they can provide the proper defense for the non-U.S. citizen in getting the criminal charges dismissed or lessened, preventing deportation, securing immigration status like a visa or green card, appealing a conviction, or receiving a pardon.

Most importantly, STERN Law gets results for their clients. Stern and her team have successfully helped clients remain secure with their families, obtain citizenship, green card, and/or immigrant visa, get a reduction or dismissal of criminal charges, win their case in Immigration Court, and successfully defend against deportation.

Stern’s passion for providing non-U.S. citizens with the same quality of representation as a U.S. citizen would receive has led her to create training for criminal defense attorneys across the country about the immigration consequences of criminal charges – referred to as Padilla Immigration Consequences Training. In just the last two years, Stern and her legal team have trained over 1000 attorneys across the country and launched their intensive Padilla Master Class to help other criminal defense attorneys become masters at CrImmigration.

The Padilla training was developed as a direct result of a 2010 Supreme Court Decision in Padilla v. Kentucky, 559 U.S. 356 (2010), when seven Justices held that “important consequences such as deportation flowing automatically from the criminal conviction were part of defense counsel’s responsibility to advise under the Sixth Amendment.” As a result of Padilla, criminal defense attorneys are now required to become reasonably competent in an entirely new area of law. Providing improper or inadequate advice to the client can result in further legal action based on Ineffective Assistance of Counsel claims or malpractice. In addition to training, Stern offers criminal defense attorneys the option of having a Padilla Consultation where they “provide a careful legal analysis of their client’s immigration consequences, laying out the recommended strategy before the attorney or their client makes any decision in the case.”

Stern’s early days as a public defender handling approximately 2,000 felony cases made her realize there was a lack of knowledge and representation for non-U.S. citizens, and she sought to change this. For her tireless efforts over the years to educate, train, and counsel public defenders across the county on the responsibilities of criminal defense attorneys to properly advise non-U.S. citizen clients about the risks of deportation, Stern was recently awarded the Pro Bono Champion Award by the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Stern also serves on several boards and service organizations which she is committed to in spite of all of her other work mentioned above. Stern also makes media appearances on CNN and recently joined Rose Scott of the NPR show Closer Look to discuss the critical impact of CrImmigration Law.

As STERN Law celebrates its 8th year, Stern and her team look forward to defending clients in challenging CrImmigration scenarios and increasing the training of criminal defense attorneys on the immigration consequences of criminal charges through their Padilla Immigration Consequences Training.

To contact STERN Law for help with your immigration case, call (404) 990-4112 or complete the contact form on their website.

About STERN Law

At STERN Law, we defend the American Dream for all non- US citizens! We don’t care about your past or your record. In fact we encourage all non- US citizens with criminal records to hire us to get your criminal case dismissed and to secure a legal immigration status for you and your family in the United States of America.

Trust us because we know how intimidating it is to walk into a courtroom or government building, where your freedom and liberty are at stake. We also know how hard it is to understand the legal process and the rights that you have as a non-US citizen. Rest assured that if you hire STERN Law you will be made fully aware of all options surrounding your situation as well as several strategies. You will gain an experienced legal team who will use their expertise and compassion to help you achieve your desired result.

If you feel confused, alone, or judged by the system, let STERN Law serve as your most trusted counsel.

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In light of the Atlanta Journal Constitution’s recent report that Georgia is among the worst states for legal representation for immigrants, Atlanta-based STERN Law remains a staunch and effective defender of the American Dream. Founded by Jessica Stern, CEO & Managing Attorney, STERN Law’s success rate in helping clients avoid deportation is three times higher than other immigration firms or those not represented by any lawyer, an accomplishment in which the firm takes great pride.

“I’m proud of the team we have assembled at STERN Law,” says Stern. “Our experienced and compassionate professionals are dedicated to helping every client we work with to secure their freedom. Although the news regarding Georgia deportation rates is devastating to the immigrant community, we at STERN Law have a proven success record. If a person in deportation proceedings is represented by STERN Law, they are three times less likely to be deported than if not our client. We are on a mission to protect as many non-citizens from deportation as we can. As relentless defenders of the American Dream, we know the government will do its best to detain or deport those it considers ‘unworthy.’ However, when clients come to us with the determination to stand up and show what they’re made of, we fight proudly on their behalf to help them secure their permanent place in the United States. I’m grateful to the entire team at STERN Law. It’s an incredible achievement that our clients are three times more likely to avoid deportation, which is a testament to our team’s commitment, knowledge, and experience. We look forward to helping even more immigrants to find their permanent place in American society.”

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STERN Law’s measurable results are also reflected in multiple five-star reviews from happy clients like Sarah Katenda, who raves, “STERN Law has been my partner and gave me a place to make my dreams come true. From the moment I stepped into this country as a child, I knew it was my home. Now, as a wife and mother of two children, it was paramount for me to finally have security in my home country. STERN Law has helped my family and gave my husband and me the security of knowing that we would be properly represented and given the support needed for me to finally become a citizen of the United States of America. ...I’m confident that we will succeed and our documents will be finalized, and finally, our two little children will have a normal reality in their country. Thank you STERN Law for your help and support!”

To contact STERN Law for help with your immigration case, call (404) 882-9973, or complete the contact form on their website.

About STERN Law

We are here to protect you. It is intimidating to walk into a courtroom or government building, where your freedom and liberty are at stake. It is hard to understand the legal process and the rights that you have. We help our clients to fully understand your situation and provide confidence knowing you have an experienced legal team determined to help and achieve your desired result.

If you feel confused, alone, or judged by the system, let STERN Law serve as your most trusted counsel.

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If you come to the United States without permission or legal status as a child, you may not realize until you are older that you don’t have the same privileges as U.S. citizens. Pablo Balbino was brought into this country by his parents when he was just five years old. As he grew older, he realized what it meant to be undocumented in the U.S.

The police pulled him over one day after he had graduated high school, and he received a traffic violation. At that time, he was a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient and was scared of losing his legal status. He was newly married and had a baby at home and was terrified of what this could mean for his family’s future. Would he be separated from them?

He made the smart choice to contact STERN Law. He was married to a U.S. citizen, but initially did not qualify to apply for a green card inside of the U.S. We helped him to overcome major hurdles that would have required him to take the risk of leaving his wife and children to apply for residency in Mexico. Through our legal strategy, he stayed together with his family in the U.S. for the entire time until he was granted legal residency! We moved ahead to secure permanent residency for 10 years, and next is citizenship!

The sky is the limit for Pablo and his family! Rather than living in fear of losing DACA status or being deported back to Mexico, Pablo is relaxed and happy with his life as a permanent resident here in the United States. His future is secure, and his family is safe. They don’t have to worry about being separated. He was able to achieve his career goals as an accountant and, ultimately, his American Dream.

This story is all-too-familiar for many immigrants around the United States. Many people come here as children and grow up without the proper documentation. Some have gotten DACA protection later on, but many have not. It is an uncertain time to live in the U.S. as a DREAMER, or otherwise undocumented person, it is very hard to live with uncertainty.

If you find yourself in a similar situation to Pablo, he recommends STERN Law to help you obtain permanent residency. You don’t have to be afraid and uncertain when it comes to your future. STERN Law will guide you, just as we guided Pablo.

What is DACA?

People who receive DACA are young people who have grown up in the United States and have little to no memory of the country in which they were born. They came here when they were young, most likely speaking English, and grew up like Americans.

Under the current immigration laws, they cannot gain legal residency despite living in the U.S. for most of their lives. Many of these “DREAMers,” like Pablo, didn’t realize they were not U.S. citizens until later in life, like when he wanted to get his driver’s license and was unable to.

DACA enables people raised like Pablo, who meet specific requirements, to receive certain benefits and remain in the country. They have to renew their DACA status now every 1-2 years. They are protected from deportation and are authorized to work in the U.S.

The requirements to qualify for DACA are:

While the general public widely supports DACA in the United States, the Trump Administration has threatened DACA recipients’ future. Many fear the program will be eliminated. Several civil organizations have encouraged DACA recipients to renew their permits as soon as possible.

Living as a DREAMER right now isn’t easy. DACA is not the same thing as citizenship or permanent residency. If you are concerned about your legal status, it is time to take the next step to secure permanent residency in the United States. Residency is only possible if you have qualifying relatives.

Obtaining Permanent Residency

If you are uncertain about your future, even with DACA benefits like Pablo was, you should take the next steps and obtain your permanent residency. Through certain circumstances, DACA recipients can get permanent residency. It doesn’t need renewal as often, it grants you the right to live and work in the U.S. on a more permanent basis, and you won’t have to worry about losing your DACA status.

Some of these options are:

You may be eligible for permanent residency as:

STERN Law Will Help You Secure Your Place In The United States

Regardless of your current situation, please don’t try to obtain your permanent residency without experienced legal counsel. This is an important opportunity for you, and you don’t want to do anything that jeopardizes it.

If you want to obtain your permanent residency, Pablo recommends contacting STERN Law. We are upfront, honest, and we will guide you every step of the way until your green card is in your hands. You deserve your American Dream, and we will help you achieve it! Don’t wait any longer to secure your status.

Contact us to take the first steps to move your legal situation forward today.

When Eric’s family first came to the United States from Taiwan in 2003, they had hopes of achieving the American Dream. The U.S. represented endless opportunities for them.

Eric was fortunate to grow up in America without having to fear deportation because his parents had taken all of the necessary steps to secure their place in this country, as Legal Permanent Residents. However, his security began to shift once he got into some trouble with drugs and law enforcement in middle school.

As he grew older, he surrounded himself with a bad crowd and continued to get into legal trouble. He became a repeat offender and eventually, it resulted in multiple felony drug charges, which are deportable offenses. He was unsure of his future in the U.S. as an immigrant facing criminal charges.

Eric’s legal status was in jeopardy, and he knew it. He spiraled into a dark place and was fearful of where he would end up if he continued down the path he was on. He truly believed his criminal charges were going to get him kicked out of the country. This wasn’t the person who his parents raised him to be.

When Eric thought he had nowhere to turn and was desperate for help, his mother convinced him to contact STERN Law after one of her customer’s recommended our services. He truly believed his case was impossible, but with STERN Law’s help, he was able to stay in the United States.

After participating in a drug court program, he realized the severity of his past mistakes and believes he has become a better person. Eric has set life goals he wants to achieve, like working in aviation on airplanes.

He attributes a large part of his newfound success to contacting STERN Law and encourages anyone who is in a situation similar to what he went through to seek legal help. Eric shows other immigrants who are facing criminal charges that are considered deportable offenses that there is hope for your case. It isn’t as impossible as you may believe, when you have a dedicated and compassionate legal advocate.

Legal Immigrants Suffer Serious Consequences When They Face Criminal Convictions

As Eric’s case illustrates, even if you are in the United States legally, you can face serious consequences if you are convicted of a criminal allegation. Just because you have lawful status, it doesn’t mean you are exempt from being deported. All immigrants can face removal and revocation of their permanent residence status if they violate U.S. immigration laws, through violating criminal laws.

There are many ways immigrants with legal residency can become deportable, known as “deportable offenses”. These deportable offenses trigger removal proceedings in immigration court. Certain criminal convictions are considered deportable offenses.

Some of these deportable offenses include:

Are You A Non-U.S. Citizen Facing Criminal Charges?

Are you an immigrant with legal residency or temporary visa, but you are facing criminal charges? Are you afraid these deportable offenses could result in your removal from the U.S? There is no need to panic. As Eric’s story shows us, there is hope. You can still fight to protect your rights.

Not every case is the same. The specific details of what constitutes a deportable offense is based on longstanding laws, implementation of new policies, as well as the individual situation. Your case isn’t hopeless. There are steps you can take to protect yourself from losing your green card or other serious consequences in immigration court.

The most important step is to acquire legal counsel who can give you a full analysis of your case and help you figure out how to proceed. It is critical you have a lawyer who fully understands both the criminal and immigration process throughout your entire criminal case.

Are You An Undocumented Immigrant Facing Criminal Charges?

If you are not in the United States legally and have been arrested for a deportable offense, you are probably scared for your future. You are in danger of losing any chance of becoming a U.S. citizen and it feels like your American Dream is slipping away. You are probably confused and unsure of what to do next.

There is no need to panic yet. Your future in this country may be in jeopardy because of your criminal charges, but that doesn’t mean it is gone forever. There are steps immigrants can take to defend against deportable offenses in immigration court.


Here are 5 things non-U.S. citizens with criminal charges should know:

You need a lawyer who specializes in criminal law and immigration law to help you with your case. Be careful before you make a decision about what to do in your criminal case, whether it’s paying a bond or otherwise, until you talk to an experienced CrImmigration attorney.

STERN Law Can Help!

We know you want to hire the best possible legal counsel for your immigration case. Your future in this country is at stake, and you want to protect it. As Eric’s case illustrates, STERN Law has an impressive track record of winning cases for immigrants facing criminal charges.

We can help if you’ve been arrested, charged, or convicted of these criminal offenses:

We have a team dedicated to the representation of immigrants facing both criminal and immigration consequences. At STERN Law, you will receive consistent and accurate advice regarding the impact on your immigration status from the very start.

If you are an immigrant who has been arrested or charged with a crime and are afraid it could affect your immigration status, contact us today. STERN Law will relentlessly fight to defend your American Dream.

Imagine for a moment that you are an immigrant in the United States without legal status. You are driving down the road one day and the police pull you over. You start to panic because you don’t have a license and you know the police will realize you do not have proper documentation.

You get detained by immigration. They threaten to send you back to your home country and all you can think about is your family. If you are deported, you would be separated from your spouse and children. Your entire future is in jeopardy and it all started with a simple traffic stop.

That is the reality for many immigrants, and it was the situation that Edgar and Esmeralda faced when he was pulled over at a traffic light and held by immigration. Without permanent residency, he was unsure of his future in the United States. His wife and 5 daughters were terrified that their hero would be deported. They just wanted to achieve the American Dream, but their bubble was burst – and suddenly everything they built was at risk.

They contacted STERN Law after other attorneys failed to secure Edgar’s release. We fought so hard, and we won! Not only did we stop Edgar’s deportation and get him back home to his family – we secured his permanent residency. Edgar went from undocumented to Lawful Permanent Resident. Now, Edgar has a great job, they bought their first house, and their kids are happier because they don’t have to worry about their father being deported. They don’t have to think about the struggles of being undocumented, like working without being paid properly, being overcharged for apartments, or being held by immigration.

We know Edgar and Esmeralda’s experience is very similar to what a lot of undocumented immigrants are going through right now, particularly with the immigration laws changing on a daily basis. It can be hard to figure out how to start working towards permanent residency.

The fear of deportation is a shared experience in the immigrant community. We are sharing their story of success so you know that there is hope for your situation, too.

STERN Law is nearly 3 times more likely to stop their clients’ deportation than other attorneys in Georgia. 54% of the time, our clients stay in the U.S. permanently as opposed to 12% of other cases in Georgia deportation courts.

Interested In Securing Your Permanent Residency?

As Edgar and Esmeralda explained, there are a lot of benefits to securing your permanent residency. They are excited to use the benefits that came with his Green Card to start building their American Dream without fear of the future. Having permanent residency relieves a lot of fear about your status in the United States and gives you more legal rights.

Here are some benefits that come with permanent residency:

You may be eligible to get a Green Card as:

Where Do You Start?

As Edgar and Esmeralda said, the first step you should toward achieving permanent residency is to find a reliable, experienced immigration attorney, such as the attorneys at STERN Law, who can help guide you through the process of getting a Green Card and ensure that you go about securing your legal status the correct way.

After that, we recommend that you start the process to obtain permanent residency right away. With immigration laws varying day to day, there is no time to waste. Our legal team will help you through the entire process, just like we helped Edgar. We won’t rest until you are holding your Green Card in your hands.

We can also help you take your first steps towards citizenship so you don’t have to worry about your legal status ever again.

How Do You Achieve Citizenship?

If you’re already a permanent resident like Edgar, why not take the next step and become an official U.S. citizen? There is a difference between a U.S. Green Card and U.S. citizenship and they’re important to be aware of if you’re serious about staying in the country.

There is a misconception that holding a Green Card makes you immune to deportation. That isn’t true. While it definitely provides protection from deportation, Green Card holders can still be detained in certain situations, such as after committing a crime. If you attain citizenship, you don’t have to worry about being deported ever again.

Here are some benefits of being a U.S. citizen that are not available with a Green Card:

How Can STERN Law Help?

STERN Law wants to help you achieve legal status. With immigration laws and policies changing everyday, we strongly encourage non-U.S. citizens to start the process to obtain their Green Card now rather than later.

When you come to STERN Law, we listen to your concerns and help you fully understand your case and the expected outcome. We helped Edgar and Esmeralda achieve permanent residency, and we can do the same for you and your family.

Experienced immigration attorneys are ready to navigate your case and secure your immigration benefits.

STERN Law is nearly 3 times more likely to stop their clients’ deportation than other attorneys in Georgia. 54% of the time, our clients stay in the U.S. permanently as opposed to 12% of other cases in Georgia deportation courts.

We never take “no” as an answer while we fight for your legal status. Let us help you achieve your American Dream.

Contact us today for an assessment of your case.

Emma didn’t plan to fall in love with and marry a non-US citizen. She certainly did not prepare herself for the challenges of marrying and applying to adjust the status of a spouse so she can build a life with a foreign husband, in the U.S.. But like many love stories, hers began when she least expected it. Emma met Francisco in Mexico when Emma was visiting the Riviera Maya. When they decided to date and later get married, they had no idea how challenging the journey would be. But fortunately for them, STERN Law was able to help them every step of the way. Although the process was difficult, they were able to get through it thanks to the strength of their love and their decision to put their case in the hands of the experienced attorneys at STERN Law. If you or a loved one has ever thought about the possibility of marrying a non-US citizen, here’s what you can learn from Emma and Francisco’s experience.

You can fall for a non-US citizen when you least expect it.

Emma wasn’t looking to enter into a long-distance relationship with a non-US citizen when she traveled to the Riviera Maya in Mexico for vacation. She was there to vacation with her parents when she met Francisco. He worked with his mom in the hotel where Emma and her family always visited. The connection they felt was undeniable, and they figured out a way to continue to visit each other frequently, as their love grew stronger.

Dating can lead to marriage, but a visa is not guaranteed.

After dating for a few years, and Emma’s many back and forth trips to Riviera Maya, Francisco and Emma had a beautiful wedding in 2014 at the resort where they met. As a non-US citizen Francisco did not automatically receive a visa, just because they were married. They had to make some tough decisions knowing that Emma would have to return back home in Michigan, so Francisco needed to start his immigration process as soon as possible. Considering the significance that this process had for their future, it was not ideal to leave anything to chance. They decided to put their case in the hands of an expert, STERN Law.

The immigration process is far from simple.

Shortly, after Emma and Francisco started the application process with STERN Law’s help, they realized how bureaucratic and challenging the journey could be. They had to prove the validity of the marriage, and doing so made them feel very exposed. It seemed odd having to justify such an intimate relationship through receipts, bank statements, travel records, taxes, etc. The process was complex and messy. Meanwhile, they had to manage feelings of anxiety over putting their future life together in the hands of a legal system run by people who would assess, scrutinize, and question whether their relationship was real. Fortunately for them, they were not going through this immigration process alone. They had the STERN Law team supporting them every step of the way.

The devil is in the details.

At STERN Law, we took this opportunity very seriously, because now more than ever, every detail on an application matters, and nothing in a person’s history should be ignored. Lack of strong evidence, lack of understanding if a person qualifies for the benefit for which he/she is applying for, analyzing their past thoroughly, and building a strong argument for the application is part of the important legal work we had to do to support Emma and Francisco through their application process. Just like with other clients’ cases, our involvement and experience increased the likelihood of a positive outcome.

Did you know that 93% of clients seeking legal status with STERN Law have obtained citizenship, legal residency and/or immigrant visas?

Unanticipated issues can and do happen.

Even though Francisco’s case seemed very straight forward, he ran into an unexpected hurdle. There was an error made by USCIS. His conditional residency had the wrong expiration date. Usually, conditional residency is valid for two years, but his green card was given only for one year. This alerted U.S. Customs and Border Protection when Francisco was coming back from one of his trips to Mexico. He was stopped, questioned, and held for a few hours. Once we at STERN Law received this information, we knew exactly what we needed to do. We went ahead and submitted his application for 10-year Permanent Residency, faster than in a normal circumstance, and it was successfully approved.

After obtaining his 10-year permanent residency, Francisco was feeling pretty confident about traveling and didn’t seem too interested in becoming a citizen. Even though being a permanent resident gives a sense of security, non-U.S. citizens have a lot of risks that can only be overcome by obtaining citizenship. The biggest risk is deportation, but risks of inadmissibility after international travel is also a large concern.

After a heart-to-heart call with our firm’s owner, Francisco was assured that his future was in the U.S. with his wife. He knew that he had his family and our firm by his side to take just one final step, and he took the leap of faith! Francisco is now a U.S. Citizen!

Francisco feels pretty grateful that he had the opportunity to go through this process relatively quickly and without significant problems. He knows that part of this success was having the support of his wonderful wife, family, and an experienced law firm. For Francisco, knowing that we, at STERN Law, were taking care of every detail of his case, following up with monthly updates, and having the answers he needed when things got complicated, was incredibly valuable, especially for a process that had several stages over a period of many years.

Now Francisco and Emma enjoy the lives they always wanted, together, and without having any worries about future immigration obstacles.

If you are interested in learning more about what is necessary for you to take the next steps in your immigration journey, please contact us by calling us at (404) 476-5820.

The journey from being an undocumented immigrant to a U.S citizen can seem long and difficult, but it is possible. Our client Andrea Bustamante shows non-U.S. citizens that their American Dream is within reach and citizenship is worth the struggle.

Andrea is originally from San Jose, Costa Rica. Like many immigrant families, Andrea’s parents wanted to provide their children with better opportunities.

They moved to the United States when she was just a young child. After living undocumented for years, she was ready to achieve legal status in the U.S. as an adult. She was tired of living with fear always present in her mind.

While she did obtain her green card (after over 10 years of fighting for it) with the help of STERN Law, she realized that all of her hurdles weren’t in the past. While at work, getting a soccer field ready for a game with her dogs by her side, a man called the police because he felt threatened by her dogs.

It became a criminal issue, and she was scared of deportation. Thankfully, her case was dismissed. Despite that, she was scared. As an immigrant, authority is intimidating. As a permanent resident, not yet a U.S. citizen, deportation is always a possibility.

The Struggle To Obtain Citizenship

STERN Law was excited to help Andrea obtain her citizenship, but she was quite reluctant. She wasn’t sure about becoming a U.S. citizen. Having already gone through a difficult application process for her green card and the fear of opening up and being vulnerable again stopped Andrea from actively pursuing her citizenship.

Andrea often felt disempowered, like the U.S. didn’t truly support her or want immigrants to live here. With our encouragement and the support of her family, Andrea came to the conclusion that she had to move forward and be a voice for other immigrants. Ultimately, she decided to stand up tall and fight again for her citizenship because it gave her the right to vote and speak up for those who couldn’t.

With help from STERN Law, she eventually took the next step and became a U.S. citizen. Now that she is a citizen, she is starting to feel that she no longer has to be afraid of police or immigration authorities. She wants to speak up for herself and other immigrants and people of color who are afraid to use their voices. Andrea believes that people need an attorney like those at STERN Law who not only understand the immigrant experience, but build their client’s confidence to speak up and relentlessly pursue their American Dream.

When Can Immigrants Vote?

The United States has a lot of strict rules about who can and cannot vote in elections. Immigrants, in particular, have been the subject of controversy when there are debates about voting rights.

There is a difference between the rights you have as a legal permanent resident and as a U.S. citizen. Those with green cards are not eligible to vote in U.S. elections. If you are a non-U.S. citizen, you are unable to participate in government elections.

You can only vote once you have finished the process of becoming a U.S. citizen. You can register as soon as it’s official. Right after Andrea received her citizenship, she went and registered to vote. Now, she’s about to vote in her first U.S. Presidential election.

If you aren’t a U.S. citizen yet, do not try to vote. If you do, your application for citizenship could be denied and you are at risk for deportation. However, encourage all of your U.S. citizen friends and family to exercise their right for themselves and others like you. Stand up and take action – become a U.S. citizen as soon as you’re eligible!

The Importance of Voting for Immigrants

Immigrants have a strong effect on the outcome of U.S elections. Voting is a way for you to have your voice heard and to pick candidates who represent your values, culture, and interests in American policies. You have the power to make a difference.

If you are a U.S. citizen, to register to vote you must:

If you fit these qualifications, you can register to vote online. Simply print the form, fill it out, and mail it to your local election office by the cut-off date. If you believe you are already registered to vote, you can confirm it online as well.

I Want To Become a U.S. Citizen So I Can Vote

If you are already a permanent resident and want to become a U.S. citizen and express your right to vote, there are many requirements you need to meet.

You may qualify for U.S. citizenship naturalization if you have:

As a U.S. citizen, not only will you receive the right to vote, you will also be protected from deportation, have access to more federal jobs and privileges, and you can bring family members to the United States.

STERN Law Can Help You Like We Helped Andrea

Do you want to become a U.S. citizen? We helped Andrea obtain her residency and citizenship, and we can help you, too! She recommends STERN Law to immigrants looking to secure their place in the United States.

We provide legal assistance for permanent residents who want to apply to become U.S. citizens, as well as representation secure residency applications for lawful permanent residence.

Whatever step you want to take, make sure it’s a step forward. STERN Law will proudly fight to defend your American Dream. Contact us today to get started.

Comfort and Obinna are husband and wife, both originally from the same village in Nigeria. Their love story is like many others, but with borders between them, they had unique challenges to overcome in order to be together. Both were in their retirement years when they decided to give their relationship a try, even though they were oceans apart. Comfort was in the United States, and Obinna was in Nigeria. Fortunately for them, STERN Law was there to help them be together, but it wasn’t easy. On top of the normal challenges involved in status adjustment for spouses, Comfort and Obinna were challenged with a travel ban on his trip to the U.S. But Comfort reached out to STERN Law for help, and we are now pleased to share their success story with you. We were not going to let a travel ban stand in the way of true love.

Comfort and Obina started their long-distance relationship in 2007. They built their relationship, as many long distance couples do, through phone calls, Facebook chats, and in-person visits. Comfort visited Nigeria as often as she could to spend time with Obinna. Their efforts helped them keep their relationship strong. In 2016, they decided to get married. This was a big step for the couple, but they knew they needed to find a way to actually live together as a couple. Obinna had never been to the U.S. before, but they both agreed this was the best place for them to start their new life as husband and wife.

Oceans Apart

Soon after getting married in Nigeria, Comfort came back home to the U.S., and she realized that she couldn’t continue to live by herself. In addition to missing her husband, she started to have some health issues, which made it much more urgent to have her companion by her side. It was tough for Obinna because he could not travel to the U.S. legally, to help her.

They began the immigration process with a sense of urgency, with no idea about the obstacles they would face. They just knew that this was the path they needed to take in order to be together. A friend of the couple recommended STERN Law as a trusted law firm. They were skeptical in the beginning because they have seen so many people with similar circumstances, wait for years with little or no progress to their case, or only to be disappointed by a negative outcome.

Nevertheless, STERN Law provided them with the reassurance that they would do everything they could to help them, right from the start. Once we met for the first time, they knew STERN Law was the right law firm for them. Comfort recalls her experience, “I was so worried about finding the right attorney, but Jessica and her team are wonderful. They went the extra mile. They were always calling us, sending us emails, and making sure things were ready for this process to happen as quickly as possible. They care about us being together. I have never met an attorney who actually cares for their clients as Jessica and her team do”.

Having a strong support system is so fundamental during any immigration process. Thankfully, Comfort had the support of her good friend Denise, who worked with the STERN Law team to make sure Comfort and Obinna had all their documentation ready, and she helped them every step of the process. Comfort thinks that having Denise by her side and STERN Law’s experience and dedication was the perfect combination for success.

Facing Unexpected Challenges – A Travel Ban

However, just when things seem to be going smoothly, and everything was ready for Obinna to travel to the U.S., the couple faced an unexpected challenge. The Trump administration expanded the travel ban and included Nigeria as one of the countries with travel restrictions, making it illegal for Obinna to travel to the United States. But the team at STERN Law was quick to react and committed to making sure Obinna could travel to the U.S. before the ban took effect. Our team stayed on top of every development and talked to Obinna and Comfort regularly about the importance of working around the upcoming deadline for travel restrictions. Thankfully, they trusted our team, followed our recommendations, and avoided being separated by the travel ban indefinitely. Now Comfort and Obinna are here together.

For Obinna, the journey to the U.S. has been a unique experience. What he loves the most is finally being united with his wife. He feels proud of the challenges he overcame by working closely with STERN Law. We are proud to have been able to work with him and his wife to ensure that neither the ocean nor travel ban could keep them apart.

Cheers to Comfort and Obinna’s new life together!

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