An immigration attorney found guilty of falsifying claims to the federal government in paperwork filed on behalf of asylum-seeking clients tarnished the lives of those he represented as well as the system itself. The dishonest actions of the attorney, who actively cultivated a “Robin Hood” persona, has negatively affected both the lives of his clients and the entirety of the system itself.
Robert Dekelaita and Illinois immigration lawyer built his reputation as an advocate of Syrian and Iraqi Christians seeking refugee status in the United States. In the course of doing so, prosecutors claimed Dekelaita forged client names on asylum application papers and fabricated their life events to build a convincing case to immigration officials charged with overseeing the cases.
Convicted a year ago, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly sentenced the well-intentioned Dekelaita this month to 15 months in prison for conspiracy to commit asylum fraud. Prosecutors in the case also charged Adam Benjamin and Yousif Yousif, translators who worked for Dekelaita, with the intentional mistranslation of answers given by clients. The men were also charged with supplementing client testimony with information for the purpose of ensuring asylum.
According to The Chicago Tribune, Judge Kennelly found a “mixed bag” in the attorney’s motives. Dekelaita didn’t get wealthy from the scam, nor did he overcharge clients for his services. Ultimately, the judge said, the attorney’s justifications presented arguments as both “aggravating” and “mitigating.”
“Maybe it’s some of both,” said Judge Kennelly.
Regardless of motive, the case has created a “ripple effect” that violates the public trust in the nation’s immigration system. This is particularly thorny, the judge added, considering the current political climate in the country casts a skeptical light on the immigration process.
After his conviction, Dekelaita sent letters to his clients stating the government forced or coerced witness testimony and that he has “cheated no one.” On the other hand, court records show Dekelaita also instructed clients to “stick to the same story” as confessions “never works in your favor.”
Breitbart reports his former clients now face deportation because of the fraud. Cornered into living out the fiction created by Dekelaita, these immigrants’ lives were ruined, prosecutors on the case said.
For its part, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), warns of common scams targeting immigrants.