Trials and Immigrations

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Sosa called lawyers from the Yellow Pages, but none would meet him in person. "Everybody else was suggesting maybe I needed to marry a U.S. citizen." Dan Boyle did agree to meet him. "They felt they could do well with it," says Sosa, adding that Boyle warned him of the risks. But like Maldonado, Sosa arrived as Boyle was stepping down, so Marinoff took over.

They filed the paperwork, and then Sosa received a letter from the INS ordering him to turn himself in. Sosa says he was very nervous -- and the fact that Marinoff was late to the hearing didn't help. Sosa says he had to be proactive with Marinoff. He had to go to the attorney's office when he had questions rather than just ask them over the phone. And he says that Marinoff's staff was sometimes rude to him, treating his questions and concerns indifferently. But Sosa's cancellation of removal was granted in August.

"We are talking about the life of my kid," Sosa says. "There's nothing that can pay for that."

Sosa says Marinoff was "very knowledgeable. "When he didn't have an answer, he would say, 'Let me find out for you.' I appreciated that. I feel that he put an effort into it."

Sam Kalam, who came to America from Bangladesh in 1981, is similarly pleased with Marinoff's representation. Kalam's son was born with a bad lung, and he contacted Marinoff to represent him in 1997. "He said, 'I am new in the arena. Give me a chance; I'll fight for you for free.'" They settled on a fee of $2,000, and last year Kalam was granted cancellation of removal. "I'm very, very happy with his service and what he did for me. He did put up a very good fight."

But Sosa and Kalam had sick children, which increased their chances of fitting IIRIRA's "exceptional and extremely unusual" definition of hardship to avoid deportation.

Not so lucky was M. Arif, a Pakistani with a degree in finance and no children. He hired Boyle several years ago to handle his application for political asylum. When that was denied last July, Arif turned to Marinoff to file an appeal. Arif liked Boyle and was hoping his replacement would be equally solid. He says he paid Marinoff $2,000, but the lawyer failed to show up for a meeting at the INS. Arif was placed in custody, and only a last-minute visit by Wiessenberger got him out.

"I felt like he really played with me," Arif says. "The night before, he tells me he's ready to fight everyone, and the next day he doesn't show up."

But Marinoff does show up at U.S. District Court on October 22 at eight in the morning. Boulder businesswoman Lisa Fraser's German boyfriend, Elmar Wilmes, a developer of recycling technologies, has overstayed his visa and was nabbed two weeks earlier by INS agents. Wilmes says he thought he had a multiple-entry visa instead of a temporary one, but what he thought is irrelevant. In two hours he will be on a plane to Germany -- unless Marinoff can intercede.

Marinoff is pacing up and down a hallway, on his cell phone with a U.S. Attorney. The animated conversation is mostly legal minutiae, but it's punctuated with Marinoff's casually bold assertion: "This is what I do every day..."

A moment later: "I do this every single day..."

Then: "I've handled twenty or thirty of these cases..."

As Marinoff spars on the phone, Fraser tries to keep her composure. "We wanted to get married New Year's Eve," she says, tears welling up. Instead she married Wilmes in jail, to prove to the INS that their relationship is not a sham, which is the only thing that could keep Wilmes from flying the friendly skies. She could move to Germany, but she has a daughter in high school here. She could try to get her boyfriend back by working through the American Consulate, but who knows whether that will work? Marinoff has filed a motion, and a hearing is hastily scheduled for 9 a.m. with U.S. District Judge John Kane, who is apparently the only available judge, since many of the others are away at a conference. But Kane doesn't have time to hear the case, so he grants Marinoff's temporary restraining order to prevent Wilmes from being deported -- for 72 hours. Then Marinoff must appear before the judge assigned to the case, Edward Nottingham, and make his stand.

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T.R. Witcher