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IMMIGRATION CONSEQUENCES OF CRIMINAL CONDUCT

THE LAW AND YOU

WRITTEN BY: Narisara P. Jongjarearn -Tasanont, Attorney at Law

There are some crimes that if convicted of can lead to harsh immigration consequences such as being deported.  For anyone who is a non-citizen of the United States this is topic that should be of interest.

First of all, many people whom I have spoken to mistakenly believe that if the crime that they have committed was a misdemeanor, then they are safe from being deported.  The thing to be concerned with is whether the crime was one that is considered a crime of moral turpitude.  Moral turpitude refers to conduct which is inherently bad, vile or depraved, contrary to the accepted roles of morality and values set by society. So as you can see, a lot, if not most crimes can fall into this category.

Additionally, many people also believe that if it happened a long time ago, then it is over with.  But for immigration matters, what matters more is how long after being admitted as a legal permanent resident did the crime occur.

Recognize that a single conviction can result in someone being deported where the offense satisfies the meaning of a deportable moral turpitude crime. The requirements necessary to meet this definition are, 1) conviction of a crime; 2) moral turpitude is implicated; 3)the offense was committed within 5 years of admission into the United States; and  4) a sentence of one year or more in prison may be imposed on the charge.

The first requirement, conviction of a crime, is satisfied if an individual is found guilty or pleads guilty, and some form of punishment is imposed as a result of it. Punishment can be in the form of a fine, restitution, probation, incarceration, community service, rehabilitation counseling, or suspension of a license.

The second requirement is a more conceptual principle and means that the individual possessed a dishonest mind when he or she committed the offense. A wide range of crimes can conceivably satisfy this requirement including, for example, theft, shoplifting, fraud, or forgery.

The third requirement is a bright line rule and it prohibits enforcement (being placed in removal proceedings) for criminal acts that occur after 5 years of admission into the United States.

As to the fourth requirement, it is important to keep in mind that the law only requires that one year of incarceration may be imposed as a result of being convicted. What is important to remember here is not the actual sentence or punishment imposed, but whether or not one year of incarceration may have been imposed.

So as an example, if Jim was admitted into the United States in 1990 and then Jim was found guilty of and convicted of forgery in 1992.  Jim was placed on probation for three years although a one-year prison term may have been imposed.  Because Jim was convicted of a crime and had a dishonest or corrupt mind when he committed the criminal act of forgery, it is considered a crime of moral turpitude.  Jim committed the crime within 5 years of being admitted and a one-year prison term could have been imposed, so he is deportable.

Recognize that Jim may not have actually been deported after he was placed on probation, but his prior criminal act can trigger deportation if he applies for naturalization or any other immigration benefit.  In addition, if he travels abroad to another country, upon his return into the United States, he may be questioned at the port of entry (the airport) and issued a Notice to Appear in court (NTA) to begin removal proceedings. As of late, Jim may still face arrest and removal by Immigration Customs Enforcement, also known as ICE without having applied for any immigration benefit or travelling abroad.  Under the Trump administration individuals such as Jim are being sought after for removal.

The NTA informs the individual of the reasons that the government believes an individual should be removed from the United States. It also advises an individual of the right to have an attorney represent them at their own cost, the kind of proceedings, and the consequences of not showing up to the scheduled hearing.  There is a misunderstanding that the government will provide an attorney for the person in removal proceedings.  That is not the case.  An individual must hire his/her own lawyer to defend himself/herself in immigration removal proceedings.

Narisara P. Jongjarearn-Tasanont works out of her law office in Los Angeles. She is also the Executive Director of  the Thai American Citizens Alliance.  You can contact her at 323-664-7131 or 323-704-6355. The contents of this article are not intended as individualized legal advice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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