The Supreme Court of Florida is deciding whether to allow appeals by immigrants facing deportation. The argument, was presented by undocumented immigrants to the Supreme Court on May 8, stated that they received bad legal advice from their lawyers.
These individuals, who lack proper immigration forms, were not told that pleading guilty or no-contest would make their deportation imminent. The defendants are requesting an appeal claiming they did not receive fair counsel during their trial.
In March 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to not inform immigrants that such pleas would lead to deportation after hearing a similar case. The case that evoked this ruling involved Jose Padilla, a Honduras native and Vietnam War veteran that had been arrested on a marijuana charge. Because Padilla had already been in the Unites States for 40 years, Padilla was told that he would not have to worry about deportation if he made a plea deal in exchange for a lesser charge. After Padilla pleaded guilty, he found out this information was wrong, and then faced deportation. However, despite the fact that he would have faced deportation had it gone to trial, the Supreme Court ruled on a 7-2 vote that all legal advice given to undocumented immigrants had to be provided with the possible consequences.
These cases are not isolated – many join Padilla in similar cases across the country.
In July 2009, a Minnesota man made a plea bargain after he was charged with simple robbery and was given a sentence of three years. However, due to his lack of communication over his immigration status, he was threatened with deportation. In 2011, the court sided with the man when he said that he would have never taken the deal had he known he would be deported.
According to the Palm Beach Post, Kristen Davenport, a Florida assistant attorney general, believes there are many more cases like this to come. Davenport said there are currently 47 similar cases waiting for a Supreme Court ruling.
“I would imagine that is the tip of the iceberg,” she told the source.