Immigration Consequences of a Criminal Conviction

Immigration Consequences of a Criminal Conviction

For immigrants in the United States, a criminal conviction can have severe consequences beyond the penalties associated with the crime itself. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has the authority to remove immigrants who violate U.S. immigration laws, including those who have been convicted of certain criminal offenses.

Immigration laws are complicated. The consequences of a criminal conviction on immigrants depend on their immigration status, the timing of the conviction, and the crime. But a conviction for many federal crimes and some state crimes will render you removable from the U.S. After removal, your criminal conviction might prevent your lawful readmission into the U.S. for several years or even the rest of your life.

Even if your offense does not result in removal, DHS can use your conviction to deny your application for permanent residency. Here are some of the immigration consequences of a criminal conviction and how a criminal defense attorney might help you avoid them.

Removal of Immigrants

The two main categories of immigrants subject to removal under U.S. immigration law and the specific grounds for their removal are:

Deportable Immigrants

U.S. immigration law empowers DHS to remove immigrants who have violated immigration laws after being admitted into the country. This category includes non-U.S. citizens who have been convicted of specific criminal offenses while residing in the United States. These offenses can range from minor infractions to serious felonies, and the consequences for the immigrant can be severe, including deportation and a ban on future reentry.

Inadmissible Immigrants

In addition to removing deportable immigrants, DHS can also remove those who were inadmissible at the time of entry into the U.S. Grounds for removal due to inadmissibility include

  • Entering the U.S. illegally.
  • Having a criminal conviction for certain offenses in another country.
  • Being convicted of specific crimes in the U.S. after a previous deportation.

The consequences of removal due to inadmissibility can vary depending on the specific grounds for removal. Some grounds may result in a permanent bar on reentry into the United States, while others may allow the immigrant to return after a designated time has elapsed.

The immigration consequences of criminal convictions in the U.S. can be severe and long-lasting for immigrants. Immigrants must understand the potential ramifications of any criminal charges they may face and seek the advice of an experienced federal crimes attorney.

Experienced immigration lawyers can help immigrants navigate these complex legal issues. By taking proactive steps to address criminal charges and protect their immigration status, immigrants can work towards a more secure future in the United States.

Criminal Charges that Jeopardize Immigrants

The statute that governs deportation and admission lists specific offenses for which the government can deport you. The statute divides offenses into a few different categories, including:

Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude

Crimes involving moral turpitude (CIMT) cover a broad variety of offenses that involve the willful commission of an act with reckless, evil, or malicious intent. To qualify as a CIMT, a crime must involve a sentence of at least one year in jail. DHS can deport you any time a judge sentences you to at least one year, even if the jail releases you early.

To deport you, the conviction for a CIMT must happen within five years after admission if you hold a visa and ten years after admission if you hold a green card. After these periods end, DHS cannot use a conviction for a CIMT to deport you.

Some crimes that may fall into this category include:

Bear in mind that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) reviews convictions on a case-by-case basis. It can find that your conviction falls within this category if it decides the California criminal statute that you violated involves the requisite criminal intent and moral reprehensibility.

Multiple Criminal Convictions

If you have two or more convictions for a CIMT arising from different schemes or incidents, DHS can deport you.

Aggravated Felony

DHS can deport you after a conviction for an aggravated felony. Aggravated felonies listed in U.S. immigration statutes include:

  • Murder
  • Human trafficking
  • Drug trafficking
  • Arms trafficking
  • Money laundering over $100,000
  • Firearms offenses
  • Crimes of violence, subject to a sentence of five years or longer
  • Theft offenses, subject to a sentence of five years or longer
  • Kidnapping for ransom
  • Possession, production, or distribution of child pornography
  • Racketeering, subject to a sentence of five years or longer
  • Operating a prostitution business
  • Espionage
  • Crimes involving fraud or deception over $200,000
  • Document fraud, subject to a sentence of five years or longer
  • Failing to appear for a sentence of 15 years or longer

DHS can deport you after a conviction for an aggravated felony at any time during your residence in the U.S. This means you could face deportation decades after receiving your green card if a court convicts you of any of these offenses.

Drug Crimes

DHS can deport you for a conviction of any drug crime except possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana for personal use. DHS can also deport you for having a drug addiction.

Domestic Crimes

DHS can deport you after a conviction for domestic crimes. The offenses that fall into this category include:

  • Domestic violence
  • Stalking a spouse, roommate, domestic partner, or co-parent
  • Child abuse
  • Child neglect
  • Child abandonment

You can also face deportation after a conviction for violating a protective order issued in a domestic violence case.

How Immigration Court Works With Criminal Charges

Immigration court is a specialized court system that operates under the Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR). It is separate from the criminal court system and deals specifically with immigration cases, such as deportation proceedings, asylum claims, and appeals of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) decisions.

When an immigrant faces criminal charges, they will first go through the criminal court system like any other individual. The criminal court will determine guilt or innocence and impose any necessary penalties, such as fines or imprisonment.

However, after the proceedings in criminal court conclude, the immigrant may face additional consequences in immigration court. The DHS may initiate removal proceedings against the immigrant based on the criminal conviction, as certain offenses can make an individual deportable or inadmissible under U.S. immigration law.

In immigration court, an immigration judge will preside over the case and determine whether the immigrant should be removed from the United States or if they are eligible for any form of relief from removal, such as asylum or cancellation of removal.

It is important to note that while criminal court proceedings and immigration court proceedings are separate, the outcome of a criminal case can have a significant impact on an immigrant’s ability to remain in the United States. Therefore, immigrants facing criminal charges should consult with a lawyer experienced in both criminal law and immigration law to fully understand the potential consequences of their case.

Immigration Consequences for a Conviction

For many criminal offenses, the immigration consequences are swift and certain. For example, an immigration judge will deport you immediately after your release from prison for murder.

Other offenses may fall into a gray area. For example, you could present evidence at an immigration hearing that a conviction for criminal mischief should not fall into a crime of violence or CIMT if you did not intend to damage the property or mistook the property for your own.

A skilled legal professional can help you to understand the likelihood of avoiding deportation in your specific case.

How a Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help to Minimize Immigration Consequences

The nature of your conviction will determine whether you face deportation or not. As you discuss your case with your criminal defense lawyer, make sure you raise the issue of deportation. If the lawyer knows about your immigration status, they can try to help you avoid removal.

To avoid deportation for a crime of violence, your lawyer might try to work out a plea deal in which you plead guilty to a crime that does not involve actual or threatened violence. To avoid deportation for a CIMT, your lawyer can work for a plea bargain in which you get sentenced to less than a year in jail.

Your lawyer can also try to remove the risk of conviction altogether by helping you enter a pretrial diversion program. In a diversion program, the criminal court will suspend your case while you attend treatment. After you complete treatment, the court will dismiss the charges. As a result, you will not have a conviction on your record.

If you’re worried about the risk of deportation after a criminal conviction, it’s important to seek out a qualified legal representative. If you’re an immigrant and have been charged with crimes, contact The Rodriguez Law Group for a free case evaluation. We’ll help you determine your next legal steps.