For many people who have immigrated to the United States, permanent residency is a big step toward the path to citizenship. Once an individual has been classified a legal permanent resident, he or she has officially been granted authorization to live and work in the United States indefinitely. This generally means that he or she no longer has to fear deportation, because the individual is officially and securely recognized as belonging in the United States.
That is, of course, unless the permanent resident is convicted of a crime.
What Types of Crimes Could Result in Deportation?
Although permanent residency comes with its share of legal protection and defense against deportation, this protection has a limit.Click To Tweet
According to the Immigration and Nationality Act, there are three types of crimes that can put an individual at risk of deportation:
- Aggravated felonies
Aggravated felonies are complicated when it comes to legal residents, because sometimes crimes that would otherwise only be considered misdemeanors get bumped up to felonies when deportation is on the line. A crime may be considered a felony for these purposes if it results in one year of jail time. Of course, the usual aggravated felonies (e.g., murder, sexual assaults, drug trafficking, etc.), would count here as well.
- Crimes of moral turpitude
Crimes of moral turpitude include intentional theft, fraud, the intentional infliction of harm, malice, lewdness, and the intent to harm people or things. Because there is no set list of crimes that qualify as “crimes of moral turpitude,” these types of crimes can be especially problematic when they involve permanent residents and the threat of deportation. Usually, it is ultimately left up to the court to decide whether or not a crime can be considered one of moral turpitude.
- Violations of controlled substances laws, domestic battery, violations of an order of protection, and firearms offenses
Some of these crimes may also fall under the “aggravated felonies” or “crimes of mural turpitude” umbrellas, but these particular crimes are ones that are named explicitly in the Immigration and Nationality Act.
Clearly, some of these laws are extremely problematic, particularly those that fall under the first two groups – aggravated felonies and crimes of moral turpitude. Because these categories are so vague, there is a huge amount of leeway when it comes to the charges and possible convictions that result from them. If a person is charged with crimes falling under either of those categories, a long and involved legal battle may result.
What Can be Done?
Deportation proceedings are just as serious, if not more so, than the average court proceeding involving a legal U.S. citizen. The process can be just as long and involved, and in a deportation case, it is not just one person’s life on the line—families may be torn apart, and livelihoods may suffer.
Lives that families have spent years building may be at risk of crashing down as a result of one deportation case. Even if the trial does not result in deportation, the defendant and his or her family must still suffer the aftereffects that come with any long legal process—fines, exhaustion, possible work penalties, and of course the bad mark on your personal and professional record that can make it difficult to find work, housing, or even secure a loan.
Luckily, there are steps that can be taken to keep the process as painless as possible and to ensure that a legal permanent resident is permitted to stay in the country.
If a legal permanent resident is charged with a crime that leads to deportation proceedings, it is possible for a number of factors to clear his name. For instance, the length of his residency in the United States or the testimony of any close relatives who are U.S. citizens may prevent his deportation.
However, neither of these is guaranteed to result in a positive outcome. The court may consider these two factors, but the prosecution will also present additional evidence to the court which may overshadow these two things.
The most important step in a deportation case is for a defendant to equip himself with a knowledgeable attorney who has experience in these kinds of cases. Deportation cases have far too much riding on them to risk going them alone. Having a smart lawyer at your side is absolutely imperative.
If you may be facing deportation as a result of a crime, do not hesitate. Contact an experienced criminal attorney who is trained in handling these cases and is willing to fight for your rights.
About the Author:
Andrew M. Weisberg is a former felony prosecutor who now serves as a defense attorney in the greater Chicago area. He has extensive experience in handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and domestic violence to retail theft-related crimes, Murder, and drug crimes.