Illegal Re-Entry Prosecution – Sentence Reduction

Since 2013, our Client was facing criminal charges in the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, for illegally re-entering the U.S. after having committed an aggravated felony. Illegal re-entry can carry a sentence of up to 20 years imprisonment. Under the sentencing guidelines, as calculated by the U.S. Probation Department, our Client was facing 46 – 57 months in federal prison. On September 17, 2015, the Judge sentenced the Defendant to only 15 months. Through several motions and arguments challenging the government’s assertions, the Judge agreed with defense counsel that a guidelines sentence would be unfair. Defense counsel for the Defendant were Carla I. Espinoza and James C. Ten Broeck Jr. from Chicago Immigration Advocates Law Offices.

This was a hard-fought and lengthy case since we had originally challenged the validity of our Client’s deportation orders uncovering a number of irregularities with his 1993 and 1994 deportation hearings, including a misleading translation. This was an important litigation strategy because it exposed the unfairness many immigrants face during deportation proceedings and allowed the Judge to consider it in favor of our Client. While the Judge ultimately decided that the deportation orders were valid, he acknowledged that defense counsel had challenged him to consider aspects of the law that were new to him. Having carefully weighed all possible defenses after this ruling, we advised our Client that his chances to prevail at trial were low and that he would benefit more by accepting a conditional plea of guilty so that we could focus on sentence reductions.

After the plea, adverse facts were brought to the Judge’s attention by the probation department in preparing its pre-sentence memorandum asserting that criminal history points ought to apply – when, in fact, none were added by the U.S. Attorneys’ Office – because the Defendant had allegedly re-entered the U.S. at a point in time much closer to when he committed the aggravated felony. Attorneys at Chicago Immigration Advocates argued that reliance on that factor would violate due process of law and confidentiality principles and, consequently, we were able to reduce the sentencing guideline calculation by 5 months and then persuade the Judge that an even lower sentence was appropriate.

The biggest part of this case was that the Judge was persuaded to go lower than what the sentencing guidelines recommended by at least 31 months. At oral arguments Attorney Carla I. Espinoza persuaded the Judge to reduce the sentence in light of Defendant’s motivations in returning to the U.S., acceptance of responsibility and rehabilitation, family ties to the U.S., and attempts to secure legal status in the U.S. The Judge agreed that a sentence within the guidelines range would be unfair to the Defendant in light of the totality of the circumstances. At the conclusion of the hearing the Judge told the Defendant: “[t]he attorneys have done a remarkable job – they had me think about things I had never thought of before.”

We are happy to share this success story with you because it demonstrates the importance of having good attorneys to represent you in any legal proceeding, but especially in illegal re-entry proceedings where the stakes are high. For this Client, our diligent representation meant the difference of serving 31 months (2 years, 7 months) less in federal prison than he would have likely served if his previous attorney continued to represent him.