I’ve explained that the consequences of criminal convictions are different for those with legal status, and for those with no legal status.  In my previous post, I left out that ANY legal immigration status in the United States can be taken away, except U.S. citizenship.  A green card can be taken away, a student visa can be taken away, a work visa can be taken away, etc.

I would like to discuss what you can do in the event that you or someone you know has a criminal conviction on your record that might endanger your immigration status.

I have had many clients who have pleaded guilty to criminal offenses without receiving legal advice as to the possible consequences of a guilty plea, or after having received bad advice.

What do you do if this happens to you?  How do you know if it has happened?

First, ANY time that a person pleads guilty to ANY criminal offense, there is a very real danger that that person may lose their immigration status, and be deported.  I would strongly advise you that if you or someone you know is not a U.S. citizen and you or someone you know has recently (or even in the past) pled guilty to a criminal offense in criminal court, you should immediately seek legal advice

That is the basic rule.  If you have some kind of legal status in the United States, and you are NOT a United States citizen, you should immediately seek legal advice.  Your status could be in danger.  Immigration law has continued over the last fifteen years—since the terrorist attacks which happened on September 11th, 2001—to become more and more strict, and now even the most minor of criminal offenses can earn attention from the immigration police, also known as “ICE.”

If you have a case going on right now, an attorney can help with two things.  First, he or she can try to make sure you do not go to jail.  In normal circumstances—probably 90% of the time, in my experience—it is the jail which first makes contact with ICE to report someone with immigration issues.  When police stop you on the side of the road, ordinarily they do not contact immigration.  (Although this does sometimes happen).  Most of the time it is the jail that does so.

So you really need to try to avoid jail.  That seems obvious, but when you realize that 90% of the time, more or less, the officials at the jail call immigration and NOT the police or the court or the judge, it becomes extremely important to avoid jail.

Second, a skilled lawyer (especially one with experience in immigration cases) can help to negotiate a guilty plea to an offense that is less likely or has no chance of attracting the attention of immigration.  As I said earlier, this is becoming more and more difficult as immigration law continues to be more and more strictly enforced, but it is certainly not impossible for a good lawyer to negotiate a good deal.  

Thanks for reading!