Every year, thousands of immigrants, many of them long-time permanent residents, are placed under removal proceedings because of criminal offenses. Some of these offenses were minor and many may have been committed many years ago. However, there is no statute of limitation in removal proceedings. Many of these offenses are classified as “aggravated felonies” although they are neither “aggravated” nor are they “felonies”. Others are classified as “crimes of moral turpitude”. An example of this is a shoplifting conviction.
We represent many foreign-born persons who the government is trying to deport for minor offenses which occurred years ago. For example, we are currently opposing the deportation of a Canadian man nearing retirement whose wife and two married daughters are U.S. citizens. His crime? He pled nolo contendre to a marijuana possession charge when he was a teenager!
Although the U.S. Supreme Court has recently held that it is the duty of criminal attorneys to advise immigrant defendants of the deportation consequences of pleading guilty or nolo contendre to a criminal offense, the complexity surrounding this issue is simply mind-boggling! Will you be subject to the “categorial” approach or the “modified categorial” approach? Would a particular conviction render you removable, inadmissible or both?
If this is confusing to you, it is all the more reason to educate yourself about the immigration consequences of criminal convictions.
• Immigration Consequences of Criminal Convictions – Office of Immigration Litigation (September 2010)