Daniel M.Pell: Immigration & State and Federal Trial Practice.

Criminal Convictions and Their Effects on Non-Citizens

This area is one of the most troubling aspects of immigration law. Conviction of a non-citizen of even the most seemingly ‘minor’ offenses can have devastating effects on the right of a non-citizen to remain in the United States, even after she or he has been here for many years.

Relatives and employers of non-citizens who have been arrested on account of the commission of crimes in the United States often believe that because the non-citizen has been ‘punished’ and ‘has served their time’ or ‘paid their fines’, immigration cannot do anything further to them.

Nothing could be further from the truth: there are very few time limits on instituting immigration proceedings against non-citizens. Moreover, simply ‘doing your time’ or ‘succesfully completing probation or parole’ does not affect the right of the US Government to deport persons for the commission of crime within the United States.

Section 237(a)(2) of the Immigration and Nationality Act specify the grounds for criminal removal from the United States of non-citizens.
Section 212(a)(2) of the Immigration and Nationality Act specify the criminal grounds for inadmissibility of non-citizens to the United States.

Analysis of these grounds of deportability and inadmissibility are crucial to understanding what may happen to an non-citizen convicted of a crime in the United States.

Section 237(a)(2) regarding deportability of non-citizens convicted of crimes comes into play when a person has removal proceedings instituted against him or her by the US Government(United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement(USICE) ) seeking to have him deported from the United States.

In certain cases, such as persons stopped at a Port Of Entry of the US(usually an airport), Section 212(a)(2) criminal grounds of inadmissibility can come into play. They can also impact a non-citizen’s ability to obtain a visa to come to the U.S. at a US Embassy or Consulate abroad.

In general, the most common grounds of removal are for Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude(such as burglary, theft, rape, murder)…crimes the legal elements of which make them inherently morally wrong, and against the basic notions of decency of an organized society. Other offenses which can trigger a person being placed into removal proceedings and being eventually deported are aggravated felonies, which if committed will cause a non-citizen to be deportedfor LIFE from the US no matter the hardship to his or her family.

Drug offenses are often the basis of the institution of removal proceedings against non-citizens. Conviction of drug offenses which involve even simple possession of cocaine, heroin, or other illegal substances can subject a person to removal proceedings.

The problem with drug offenses is that conviction of some (but not all) of them, can result in a person being permanently inadmissible to the United States.

Many drug offenses involving delivery or possession with intent to deliver illegal drugs can result in conviction of an aggravated felony under immigration law and a permanent ban to coming back into the US. As in all cases involving criminal convictions, consultation with a qualified immigration attorney is essential.

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