What every immigrant needs to know about crime and deportation

Essentially, there’s one thing every immigrant without citizenship in this country needs to know: Almost any criminal act — no matter how trivial — could make you a target for removal by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The list of deportable crimes keeps changing as the political rhetoric about immigrants continues to grow increasingly caustic. Documented and undocumented immigrants alike can find themselves threatened with deportation over truly minor crimes.

For example, take the case of a 31-year-old mother of three facing deportation to El Salvador, a country she hasn’t seen since she was 5. An unpaid traffic ticket led to a background check that showed she’d written bad checks when she was 19 — for which she spent four months in a prison camp. However, that’s enough under current regulations to label her a “priority aggravated felon” and put her on the fast track out of the country to a land where she can’t even speak the language.

An immigrant labelled an aggravated felon under current regulations may not have committed any crime that’s traditionally considered either aggravated or a felony. Instead, they may have committed one of the offenses labelled “aggravated felonies” by Congress strictly for the purposes of deportation.

Originally intended to catch career criminals and dangerous felons and return them to their home countries, the list now includes more than 30 offenses — including minor traffic crimes and missing a court date. Adding to the confusion for immigrants, what one state considers a felony-level crime might be a misdemeanor in another — and a misdemeanor in one state might not be criminal at all in the next. For example, sex between someone aged 21 or older with a 17-year-old could be a crime in one state, while other states have no limit on the age gap between parties over the legal age of consent.

The consequences of landing on the list of “aggravated felons” is severe: You can be removed from the country without a deportation hearing and you are ineligible for asylum. You are ineligible for a hardship waiver and may be permanently barred from returning to the United States, among other penalties.

No immigrant today should take the risk of a guilty plea for any offense — no matter how minor. If you’re charged with a crime, talk to an attorney familiar with immigration-related criminal defenseissues today.

Source: HuffPost, “What Crimes Are Eligible For Deportation?,” Teresa Wiltz, accessed July 28, 2017

We Want You To Be Able To Share In The American Dream