For two years, Constantine Golicov sat in a Utah County Jail, facing the possibility of deportation to Moldova —a country he’d left as a 15-year-old in 2001 to start a new life in the U.S. with his family in Utah.
His crime? He’d been placed in deportation proceedings in 2012 after a third-degree felony conviction in 2010 for failing to respond to a police officer’s signal to stop. Golicov was ordered to serve 30 days in jail and placed on probation for the crime. He was detained longer, however, after the Department of Homeland Security charged that his failure to stop for the police met the definition of “crime of violence” under the Immigration and Nationality Act.
Today, he’s a free man, thanks to the perseverance of Utah lawyer Skyler Anderson, who shared the story behind Golicov’s legal battle on Wednesday as part of an event organized by the law school’s Student Immigration Law Association. Anderson and Golicov spoke to a full classroom of students at the lecture, titled “Deportation: My Experience.”
After serving time for his conviction, Golicov received a notice to appear by the Department of Homeland Security in 2012, stating he could be removed from the country because his conviction constituted an aggravated felony under the Immigration and Nationality Act.
Anderson, a 2009 graduate of the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law, took on Golicov’s case and spent nearly two years navigating the legal system, arguing that the definition of a “crime of violence” in the Immigration and Nationality Act was unconstitutionally vague.
Anderson and Golicov emerged victorious in September, when the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that a portion of the federal immigration statute on deportable offenses was unconstitutionally vague. Golicov’s deportation order was vacated, freeing him, while setting a precedent for similar cases that had relied on the same portion of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
The legal battle may not be over yet, however. The U.S. Supreme Court recently heard legal arguments on the issue in the case of Lynch v. Dimaya, in which a decision is pending. The outcome could potentially affect cases such as Golicov’s.
Anderson and Golicov told students they are ready to continue their legal fight.
“I’m in it for the long haul; I know he is too,” said Anderson. “We’re cautiously optimistic.”
Anderson said the case has strengthened his passion to defend lawful permanent residents. From a policy standpoint, he said the case raises questions around mandatory detention policies, which kept Golicov behind bars for two years.
Golicov offered students a client’s perspective, noting he is grateful for Anderson’s assistance. He encouraged students to find a legal path that inspires them —whether it be that of the prosecutors who tried to deport him —or attorneys like Anderson who fought to keep him here.
“Whatever it is, if you (put) your heart to it, you can accomplish it,” said Golicov.