Overturning a Removal Order: Challenging Ineffective Assistance of Previous Counsel
August 30, 2023

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We would like to share another successful case of our firm with you. A removal order was issued to our client due to lies of his previous intermediary and the former attorney’s ineffectiveness. Our team submitted a motion to reopen for the client, and the immigration court reopened the client's case.

The client came to the United States with a student visa, but never reported to the school, instead he applied for asylum through the help of an intermediary. The client was referred to immigration court after the denial of his asylum application by USCIS. The intermediary hired by the client found him multiple lawyers, and the lawyer who accompanied the client to court was arranged randomly by the intermediary.

The intermediary arranged for a lawyer to accompany the client to the court. On the same day, the client dressed up and arrived at the courthouse. The judge failed to attend the hearing due to illness. The judge's assistant told the client to go home and wait for the new hearing notice to be mailed. After that, the lawyer and the agency told the client that the judge was known to be a killer (whose denial rate was over 90%) and suggested that the client consider administrative closure. The client thought the suggestion was good and accepted it.

A year later, in 2019, when the client tried to renew his work permit, he was shocked to find out that he had received a removal order for not appearing in court in 2017. The court notice was mailed to the lawyer at the time, but the client had no knowledge. The client was worried that the removal order could not be opened, and he would be arrested by ICE, so the client immediately contacted Law Offices of Sabrina Li.

After analyzing the client's situation, we believed that the client's failure to appear before the court was through no fault of his own, and the reason for reopening the removal order complied with the law, so we immediately submitted a motion to reopen for the client. The case was opened soon and returned to the immigration court and the client received a new hearing date soon.


The lawyer or his/her staff’s following behavior could be considered ineffective assistance of counsel.

  • Misleading clients or recommending clients not to attend scheduled hearings
  • Failure to submit relevant evidence or sufficient evidence on time
  • Failure to help clients submit specific applications
  • Acknowledge or advise clients to give up their right of appeal without obvious strategic advantage
  • Use the lawyer’s withdrawal threat to force clients to accept voluntary departure
  • Failure to take action to ensure that the client is still eligible for relief


Assuming ineffectiveness is established, the individual also usually must show that he or she was prejudiced by the counsel’s performance. The primary exception to this requirement is that individuals need not show prejudice where counsel’s ineffectiveness resulted in entry of an in absentia order of removal.


Motion to Reopen based filed based on attorney’s ineffectiveness, some courts may impose conditions on the petitioners, that is, to seek relief in a timely manner after discovering negligence.

If you have received a removal order in absentia, and need help filling a motion to reopen, please contact our office.

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