Understanding the immigration consequences of a criminal conviction
Criminal immigration is also known as “crimmigration” and implicates the convergence of immigration and criminal law. Over the years, criminal immigration has risen as one of the most important and specialized areas of deportation and removal defense.
Understanding the immigration consequences of a criminal conviction is critical: any person who is not a U.S. citizen, including lawful permanent residents, can be even deported because of a criminal conviction. It is crucial to work with a criminal defense attorney to assure your criminal case does not terminate in deportation.
Immigration crimes usually entangle illegal entry or re-entry and marriage fraud. Being charged with any kind of crime, from drug possession to theft, could affect your immigration status.
The potential consequences go well beyond a fine or even jail time.
The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) identifies three categories of crimes that can place you at risk of deportation and keep you from ever becoming a lawful permanent resident:
- Aggravated felonies or violent crimes, the most serious crimes
- Crimes of moral turpitude (CIMT), divided in:
- Crimes against property (e.g. robbery or burglary);
- Crimes committed against governmental authority (e.g. corruption or fraud against the government);
- Crimes committed against individuals, family and sexual morality (e.g. murder or child abuse).
- Controlled substance or domestic violence convictions, drug crimes, firearm offenses or White-collar offenses (e.g. racketeering and fraud)
Immigration and naturalization law is governed by the INA and overseen by an office in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) called United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS.
DHS begins the deportation process by issuing a Notice to Appear (NTA) to the non-citizen. The NTA is issued because of criminal or immigration violations and contains factual allegations. The notice is filed with the immigration court having jurisdiction to your place of residence. The NTA can be issued while criminal charges are pending, after you have been convicted, or even years after you have served the criminal sentence.
The moment that you receive a NTA from a federal immigration agency is scary and demoralizing.
If you are an immigrant and have been charged with a crime, it is extremely important that you seek the advice of a New York Immigration Attorney. As an immigrant, not only you face fines and jail time, but also removal from the United States.
A criminal conviction for a crime or moral turpitude or an aggravated felony will likely trigger deportation proceedings against you. These crimes include, but are not limited to:
- False statements to law enforcement or federal agent;
- Possession of CDS with intent to distribute;
- Unlawful possession of a weapon;
- Aggravated assault;
- Domestic violence;
Criminal convictions do not fade away from a non-citizen’s criminal record, even when the conviction has been vacated or expunged. Criminal convictions can also significantly affect your employment prospects.
If you are a lawful permanent resident, a criminal conviction could trigger removal proceedings against you or prevent you from ever becoming a naturalized U.S. Citizen. If you are illegal in the U.S., a conviction could prevent you from ever obtaining a Green Card or ever becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen.
Before accepting your guilty plea, the criminal court judge will warn you that your conviction could result in you being deported from the United States. Even if your defense lawyer did not advise you of the consequences of your guilty plea on your immigration status, it could be very hard to later reopen or vacate the criminal case.
Consult with a Criminal Immigration Lawyer
Before pleading guilty to any crime, you need to speak to consult with an Immigration Attorney in New York with experience in defending immigrants charged with a crime. In my practice, I regularly advise Criminal Defense Lawyers representing immigrants. In most cases, it is possible to negotiate a guilty plea to an offense that will not affect a defendant’s immigration status.
If you or a loved one is a noncitizen facing criminal charges contact me as soon as possible. Even long-term residents are routinely deported from the U.S. for committing serious offenses. Some crimes that are considered as minor may have drastic immigration consequences.
In addition to that, you could be waiting months or even years for your individual hearing, depending on how busy the court is. DHS sometimes makes mistakes, so it is important to examine the allegations closely.
Contact a New York Criminal Immigration Lawyer if you have been charged with a crime