Friday, September 10, 2021

Crimmigration Real-o-thetical

Real-o-thetical: Noun. An in-class "hypothetical" based, at least in part, on real events.

The travails of Michele Thiesen would make an outstanding Crimmigration Real-o-thetical. Here are the facts:

  • Thiesen is a Canadian citizen.
  • In 1994, she was convicted of burglary. She broke into a home she believed was empty, but the residents were present. She stole a VCR. (See California Penal Code § 459.)
  • She had prior convictions (petty theft, drug charges, prostitution) which, at the time, meant she was sentenced to at least 25 years to life. She got 40 years to life. (See California Penal Code § 667)
  • California changed it's three strikes law in 2012. If sentenced after 2012, Thiesen would have been sentenced to 25 years to life.
  • Thiesen was a model prisoner, so much so that the prison guards wrote letters in support of her release.
  • Thiesen sought and received re-sentencing of 25 years to life, making her eligible for parole, which she was granted.
  • She was released from prison..... into the arms of ICE.

Questions I would ask students: 

  • What will happen to Thiesen?
  • What will be the basis for removal? (Identify ALL possible grounds). 
  • Could Thiesen's 1994 counsel have avoided immigration consequences? If so, how? 
  • Did counsel in 1994 have an obligation to think about the immigration consequences of Thiesen's case? 
  • Would Thiesen be eligible for relief from deportation?

Note that, in reality, Theisen is planning to self-deport. At least that seems to be the gist of the WaPo coverage which talks about her attorney's work to expedite her return to Canada.

Also, the coverage of Thiesen's case omits any information about her immigration status or age at the time of her crimes though Thiesen's counsel provides some color commentary, telling WaPo that her client's (alcoholic) dad died when she was 17, she took up drugs to "self-medicate" and, well, "Once you’re hooked on heroin, it’s an expensive drug to support.”

I would provide students with some made-up facts on immigration status and age. Have her enter as an infant, teen, or adult, asking whether that does or should change any of our analysis. Have her enter lawfully. Have her overstay.

The real-o-thetical variations are, of course, endless. It's the human drama of Thiesen's case that will draw students in.


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