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Florida Supreme Court hears issues that may affect immigrants

Immigration-related issues have been the focus in the Florida Supreme Court this week. Tuesday, the Court heard oral argument in three criminal appeals based upon a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision that held that a criminal defense lawyer who fails to warn an undocumented immigrant that a criminal conviction could lead to deportation before entering a guilty plea on a plea deal violates the defendant's right to effective assistance of counsel.

A separate case heard this week in the Florida Supreme Court could have impact on undocumented immigrants and non-residents of Florida in obtaining homestead property tax exemptions in the state. The homestead tax case was argued in the state's highest court Monday and involved a Honduran couple who came to Florida on investment visas. The case is not directly an immigration case, as the attorneys agreed in oral argument that it is not, but certainly the outcome could impact immigrants.

In the homestead case, the issue is whether the Honduran couple should be denied a 2006 homestead tax exemption on their Key Biscayne home. The couple had three minor children, who were all born in Miami, and are U.S. citizens who had have lived nowhere else, but Florida for their entire lives.

The Miami-Dade Property Appraiser says that the children are residents of Honduras under common law and the parents were not entitled to the 2006 homestead property tax exemption. The appraiser's position was overruled in lower Florida courts, and the appraiser appealed the issue to the high court.

The Florida Supreme Court justices reportedly seemed to question the appraiser's legal position in light of a state constitutional provision that grants exemptions for homes in Florida occupied by permanent resident dependents. The children, U.S. citizens, lived in the home at the time the issue arose.

Tuesday's arguments that touch on immigration issues raises the question of whether or not the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision in criminal pleas should apply retroactively to cases that were resolved before the 2010 ruling.

The Florida criminal appeal cases also raise the issue of whether or not warnings given by Florida judges that defendants "may" be deported after a criminal conviction makes a difference, and whether the warning is enough to offset the constitutional violation of a defense attorney's failure to advise a client of potential deportation after a criminal conviction.

Sources:

Fox News Latino, "Florida Justices Hear Case for Denying Homestead Exemption for Immigrants," May 8, 2012

WJXT News 4 Jacksonville, "Florida Supreme Court hears 3 immigration cases," May 8, 2012

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