Keeping a family together after a traumatic ICE raid and bad lawyering by a prior attorney
Tereza Pereira and Carlos Lima, Brazilians who have lived in the United States for nearly twenty years, were granted permanent residence in the United States at the US Immigration Court in Hartford on Friday, March 7, 2008. Immigration Judge Michael Straus approved the couple's applications for cancellation of removal, agreeing that their sons, Thaigo, 16, and Bryan, 7, would suffer "exceptional and extremely unusual hardship" if the family had to return to Brazil. Thiago is a high honors student and varsity athelete at Danbury High School; if his parents were removed he would lose his outstanding opportunities for a college education and career here.
Tereza was arrested by a team of ICE agents in 2007. ICE agents waited in the family's living room and outside of Bryan's bedroom while having Thiago summon Tereza home from work to be arrested. She and Carlos were shocked to learn that they had final orders of removal imposed after their prior attorneys missed critical case-filing and appeal deadlines. Her case provoked an outpouring of interest and support in Danbury, as many friends of the family, led by Nan and Stu Howkins of Ridgefield, campaigned for Tereza's release. In February 2007, two weeks after Tereza was arrested, ICE and the Immigration Judge agreed to reopen the couple's cancellation cases and Tereza was freed on a $15,000 bond.
A newspaper editor woke Attorney Michael Boyle up late the night Tereza was arrested to tell him about her arrest. At 8:00 am the next day he met Carlos Lima and Nan and Stu Howkins at the Federal Building in Hartford to learn the facts of the case. Over the next two weeks, Attorney Boyle, Attorney Isabelle Barreira, and paralegals Glaucia Lolli and Sandra D'Aprile assembled hundreds of pages of evidence, filed complaints against prior counsel, and prepared motions to reopen Tereza's and Carlos' cases. ICE Counsel Leigh Mapplebeck graciously agreed to support the motion, setting the stage for Tereza's release and the couple's new hearing.
The final hearing was the culmination of many months of preparation. Neighbors, friends, teachers, counselors, experts in Brazil, and the couple's son, Thiago, prepared letters and reports for the immigration judge describing Tereza's and Carlos' moral character, and the tremendous hardship that Thiago and Bryan would face if their parents were removed to Brazil. After several hours of testimony, Judge Straus said that he could not deny the case, and the crowded courtroom erupted in shouts and applause.
Interesting articles on the case appeared in the Connecticut Law Tribune, the Danbury News-Times, and a bilingual English/Portuguese newspaper in Danbury, the Tribuna. A video of Tereza describing her arrest at a Stop The Raids rally in Danbury after she was released from ICE custody is available on You Tube.