Charlotte lawyer reprimanded for handling of immigration case. ‘He played with the dreams of a family.’
WBTV Investigates: Man who came to US legally now in limbo after lawyer’s lack of action
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A Charlotte-area man who immigrated to the United States legally nearly 25 years ago is now in limbo.
The man, who WBTV agreed not to identify due to the current uncertainty surrounding his legal status, has spent a decade waiting for his permanent resident status to be re-approved.
Documents show the man hired Charlotte immigration attorney George N. Miller in 2011 to help him apply for legal permanent resident status in the US. At the time, the man says, he had already lived in the US legally for more than a decade.
Instead of obtaining permanent resident status, though, the man’s application was denied. The reason for the denial and what happened next formed the basis of a complaint against Miller, the immigration lawyer, to the North Carolina State Bar.
Records show the US Department of Labor selected the man’s application to audit and sent a letter requesting additional information to Miller’s firm. But Miller, the records show, never responded.
Because the documents were never produced for the audit, the man’s application for permanent resident status was denied.
The records show Miller requested the decision to deny the application be re-considered but that was also denied.
Miller filed an appeal challenging the denial but records show he later withdrew that appeal.
The N.C. State Bar issued a written reprimand to Miller for his handling of the case.
“You failed to timely provide necessary documents in response to an audit notification by the U.S. Department of Labor. Your failure resulted in [the man’s] application for legal permanent resident status,” the reprimand reads.
“When the Department of Labor refused to re-open the audit period for [the man’s] application, you filed an appeal. You subsequently withdrew the appeal without informing [the man]. Throughout your representation of [the man] you consistently failed to respond to [his] reasonable requests for information and to keep [him] updated on the status of his case.”
The Bar found that Miller refunded the money his client paid him and that Miller “accepted responsibility for [his] actions and were sincerely remorseful for them and the harm they caused.”
But his former client doesn’t feel the written reprimand was adequate punishment for the situation he now finds himself in.
“It doesn’t give me back my ten years,” the man said in an interview with WBTV.
“He played with the dreams of a family. Many families are in the same situation as me in this country, in limbo, and there’s nothing he can do that can return those lost years to us.”
In particular, the man said he had hoped to obtain legal permanent resident status so he could return to Bolivia to see his dying father.
Because the case was dragged out and, ultimately, denied, he was unable to leave the US before his father’s death.
“I couldn’t hug my dad,” the man said. “Two years ago, he passed away in my country. I couldn’t make it so my kids could be in contact with him. These past ten years limited me from doing so many things.”
The man sought permanent resident status with the support of his then-employer, Tracy Coulter.
“You’ve got a really good, decent, hard-working man involving doing the right thing,” she said of her former employee.
Coulter, who moved to the US from Canada, said Miller also handled her immigration case.
“In my opinion, he shouldn’t hold a license anymore,” she said of Miller.
Miller declined to answer questions for this story on camera but sent an emailed statement saying his former client and his family “are wonderful people and I hope for the best for them. I truly do.”
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