Stoll Berne, together with the Immigrant Law Group, recently filed an opening brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in support of a motion to reopen immigration proceedings that was originally filed in San Antonio, Texas.
Melida Teresa Luna-Garcia, a Guatemalan citizen, came to the United States in 2004, but an immigration judge ordered her removed at a hearing that was held in her absence. Melida did not attend the hearing because the government never notified her of the time and place of that hearing, as the government was required to do under federal law.
Both the immigration court and the Board of Immigration Appeals denied Melida’s motion to reopen, concluding that the government was not required to notify Melida of the time and place of her hearing because the address she had provided to the government for notice purposes was an address in Guatemala, not an address in the United States. Under federal law, a noncitizen is required to provide the government with an “address at which [she] may be contacted” in order to receive notice of the time and place of her immigration proceedings. The issue presented on appeal is whether providing a foreign address suffices under that standard.
None of the U.S. Courts of Appeal has decided the issue presented in Melida’s case. In the future, the issue is expected to arise more frequently, in light of the new Administration’s immigration policy changes and statements made pursuant to those changes by the Department of Homeland Security.
Stoll Berne attorneys Steve Larson, Yoona Park, and Nadia Dahab, as well as Stephen Manning at the Immigrant Law Group, are counsel for Ms. Luna-Garcia. Her story is told in fuller detail in this 2015 article in The New York Times.