A federal appeals court has ruled that a Prince George’s County immigrant who faced deportation is due a hearing in U.S. district court first.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that federal courts do have authority to review a waiver of deportation that was granted to Franklyn Roosevelt Bowrin, who was threatened with deportation after he was convicted of conspiracy to possess drugs.
“Finally, after two years we’re going to be able to get a decision by a federal court,” said Bowrin’s attorney, David Goren.
Bowrin is a native of the Caribbean island of Nevis who came to this country in 1977. He later married an American woman and became a permanent resident, working in the area as an auto mechanic.
But in 1994, Bowrin was convicted in Prince George’s Circuit Court of conspiracy to possess marijuana with intent to distribute. After his conviction, the Immigration and Naturalization Service began proceedings to deport him.
Bowrin’s request for a waiver of the deportation order was originally presented to an immigration judge in 1995 but it was not heard until the following year. In the meantime, Congress passed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, which eliminated deportation waivers for individuals with criminal convictions.
The judge granted Bowrin a waiver anyway because the law was not in effect at the time his case started, according to court documents. Additionally, the judge felt Bowrin deserved to continue living in this country because he had become a permanent resident and had served his sentence, according to Goren.
But the Board of Immigration Appeals, backed by the new law, overturned the immigration judge’s decision.
“We filed and appealed the BIA decision and said that it was wrong for denying him the waiver,” Goren said. “We argued that my client had the right to review the decision that took the waiver away from him. It was unfair for the INS to try to eliminate his right to a waiver retroactively.”
The U.S. District Court in Greenbelt said it did not have jurisdiction over the case, sparking the appeal to the 4th Circuit.
The case is “whether or not a federal court has jurisdiction to review the decision made by the Board of Immigration, which denied the immigration judge’s grant of waiver of deportation to my client,” said Goren.
A three-judge panel of the appeals court agreed with Goren and ordered the case back to district court for a hearing.
Jeffrey Jay Bernstein, the Department of Justice lawyer who argued the case for the government, was not available for comment Friday. INS officials said they could not comment on the case.
“The Privacy Act precludes us from speaking on the particulars of any case,” said INS spokeswoman Kimberly Weissman. “But the law is very clear that individuals convicted of criminal charges will undergo the removal proceedings.”
No date has been set yet for Bowrin’s hearing. Bowrin said Friday that he feels “a sense of relief” at the decision.
“But at the same time, I feel like my life is on hold. We can’t do anything; we can’t take a vacation, nothing like that. My wife has been extremely unhappy.”