Challenging the Immigration System: The Story of One Family’s Fight for a Better Life


Attorney Ismail Shahtakhtinski had recently achieved success in a particularly challenging immigration case, which had been pending removal proceedings in Immigration Court for a staggering 13 years. The case involved a Korean family who had entered the United States over 22 years ago and had been sponsored for permanent residency through employment. Many years after they entered the U.S., they applied for citizenship, but during the citizenship interview, the DHS officer asked them questions about their past employment dating back 20 years, to which they gave inconsistent answers.


The DHS then conducted further investigations and found some inconsistencies in the employment history of the respondents in South Korea. However, all the discrepancies the DHS alleged were reconcilable and explainable by the respondents. The DHS denied citizenship and placed the applicants in removal proceedings. 


Before I.S. Law Firm took on the case, the government had served the wrong notices to appear, which we disputed in court. The court could have dismissed the case then but instead allowed the government to cure the mistakes in their notices and reissue new ones. Attorney Ismail Shahtakhtinski then disputed the removability of the clients, which was a departure from the typical approach in immigration courts, where the removability is admitted, considered, and then the respondent applies for some benefit like Asylum or Cancellation of Removal.


The case was delayed in immigration court multiple times. First, the respondents had another lawyer who eventually could not handle their case. Then, the government delayed the process of issuing Notices to Appear. After many years of rescheduling for various reasons, including the pandemic, our clients finally had their chance to be heard after being in removal proceedings for over 13 years. Interestingly, the immigration judge who previously handled the case was no longer in the court, and a new judge was appointed by William Barr, the Trump administration, who presided over the case. The judge was comprehensive, detailed, and attentive to the case.


Before the testimony, Ismail Shahtakhtinski filed a brief arguing that it was the government’s burden of proof to demonstrate that the clients engaged in some fraud by providing false documents or false information at the time of their green card application. Typically, in the remote proceedings in immigration courts, it is the burden of proof of the applicant to convince the court that they are eligible for the benefit. The court agreed that the government had to present the case with clear and convincing evidence, which is a high burden of proof.


We also contacted some individuals in South Korea and obtained affidavits and additional evidence confirming that the respondent worked there. Rather than allowing the government to first start questioning the respondent, Ismail Shahtakhtinski decided to ask the respondent themselves, which was a crucial decision. This approach allowed us to prevent the government attorney from tripping the respondent up in her statements and showing the court inconsistencies that would be difficult to cure.


Attorney Ismail Shahtakhtinski explained the inconsistencies in the case, arguing that the government went beyond the instructions in the citizenship application and asked additional questions in English beyond the extent of the applicant’s understanding. The government also failed to invite a Korean interpreter to ensure that the answers were correct and fully understood by the respondents. The government had also produced evidence in the form of a sworn record of statements signed by the respondents at the citizenship interview, in which they confirmed the correctness of their answers.


Overall, this case was very challenging and unique compared to typical cases in immigration courts. However, the I.S. Law Firm’s diligent efforts in disputing the removability of the clients and presenting evidence by clear and convincing proof were successful. Ismail Shahtakhtinski proved that our clients did not engage in fraud, and they were able to continue living in the United States as permanent residents.


If you’re looking to obtain immigration assistance, it’s vital to seek the help of an experienced immigration lawyer who can provide you with effective legal representation and help you achieve the best possible outcome for your case. At I.S. Law Firm, PLLC, we offer comprehensive immigration services tailored to your individual needs. To schedule a consultation, please click the following link: Schedule a Consultation – I.S. Law Firm, PLLC.