Many criminal justice practitioners and immigrant advocates know the challenges that come along with the intersection between the criminal justice and immigration systems. 


Trying to understand this complex area of law can feel like trying to navigate an intricate maze. 


A simple case can suddenly become complicated due to immigration consequences hidden around unexpected twists and turns. 


While the criminal legal system may treat them as any other defendant, the immigration system can impose additional punishments that could lead to removal from the United States. 


What Consequences Could Immigrants Face With A Criminal Conviction?

Getting tangled up with the law as an immigrant can unleash a whole bunch of headaches that go beyond just facing the judge. 


One immediate concern is the looming threat of deportation. Crimes labeled as “crimes of moral turpitude” or aggravated felonies can trigger removal proceedings, ripping families apart and disrupting lives. 




Grounds for Deportability: Non-citizens can face deportation on the basis of certain criminal convictions. 


The immigration statutes provide a list of aggravated felonies that can trigger deportation for non-citizens. 


These felonies include but are not limited to drug trafficking, firearms offenses, crimes of violence, and some theft offenses. 


Moreover, non-citizens can also be deported for committing fraud or misrepresenting their immigration status or identity. 


It’s essential to note that the immigration consequences of criminal convictions can apply to both lawful permanent residents (green card holders) and nonimmigrants, such as tourists, students, and temporary workers.


Inadmissibility Grounds: Even if a non-citizen is not deportable, certain criminal convictions can still render them inadmissible to the United States. 


What does that mean?


It means that they will be barred from entering or returning to the country if they travel abroad. 


Inadmissibility grounds for non-citizens include convictions for crimes involving moral turpitude, drug offenses, prostitution-related offenses, human trafficking, and other offenses that implicate national security or public safety concerns. 


Re-entry into the United States after a conviction for any of these offenses can be nearly impossible without an appropriate waiver or pardon from the government.


Is there a way to try and mitigate these consequences? Yes!


Immigration Relief: Some of the relief options include post-conviction relief, asylum, withholding of removal, cancellation of removal, and adjustment of status. 


Post-conviction relief involves vacating or modifying a conviction entry, which can help eliminate or reduce the immigration consequences of a criminal conviction. 


For instance, a plea bargain can be made to help modify the conviction from an aggravated felony to a non-aggravated felony can prevent deportation for a lawful permanent resident. 


On the other hand, asylum, withholding of removal, cancellation of removal, and adjustment of status are all forms of discretionary relief that can allow non-citizens to remain lawfully in the United States or avoid deportation on certain grounds.


Navigating the complexities of criminal convictions within the context of non-immigrant status demands a thorough understanding of both criminal and immigration laws. I


If you find yourself facing the intricate challenges posed by a criminal conviction in the pursuit of non-immigrant status, I strongly urge you to seek the guidance of a seasoned immigration attorney who can provide clarity, mitigate risks, and help chart a strategic course forward, ensuring the preservation of your non-immigrant status.


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