Today, we are continuing our discussion we started with Newsletter # 5.  In that newsletter, we discussed reasons clients use for failure to appear for their court hearings.  We are addressing the language barrier and failure to inform the court of change of address issues. 

In this example, let’s assume the client entered the U.S. by crossing the border and was arrested by immigration officials and issued a Notice to Appear (NTA) in court, and then released.  Before the release, immigration officials will provide instructions to the client in the language of his or her choice on the next steps.  But in many instances, clients provide the wrong address to immigration officials because of fear of being deported or will fail to inform the court of any change of address later.  Reopening your case will be challenging if you are one of those people.  Under the law, someone who has been given paperwork to appear in court is required to provide the court with an address and take affirmative steps to ensure the accuracy of the address.  This obligation exists regardless of how any errors in the client’s address happened.  So, it is important to let the court know of any change of address. And also, because the paperwork is provided to you with instructions in the language of your choice, it is difficult, but not impossible, to claim language barrier.  



This is a very interesting case on the principle of comity.  Comity refers to courts in one state or jurisdiction respecting the laws and judicial decisions – whether state, federal or international – not as a matter of obligation but out of deference and mutual respect.  This is a concept studied in law school and found in the Comity Clause of the Constitution – Constitution – Article IV, § 2, Clause 2.

This is a case from the 4th Circuit Court in Richmond, Virginia, deciding on the validity of a divorce in Ghana.  The case is Adjei v. Mayorkas.  The question arises from Michael Antwi Adjei’s marriage to Barbara Boateng after Boateng and Kingsley Kwame Gyasi — both Ghanaian citizens — divorced under Ghanaian customary law. At the time of the divorce, Boateng and Gyasi were lawful permanent residents of the United States, and neither was present or domiciled in Ghana. Based on his marriage to Boateng, Adjei became a lawful permanent resident of the United States. But when Adjei applied to become a naturalized citizen, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) determined that he and Boateng were not validly married. USCIS reasoned that under controlling Virginia law, the Commonwealth would not recognize a divorce granted by a nation where neither spouse was domiciled at the time of the divorce. Adjei sought a review of the decision in the district court, which granted summary judgment to USCIS. Adjei then brought this appeal. The Fourth Circuit concluded that, as a matter of comity, Virginia would recognize this otherwise valid divorce granted by a foreign nation to its citizens, regardless of the citizens’ domicile at the time. The panel, therefore, reversed and remanded with instructions to grant Adjei’s naturalization application.


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