Immigration Status and Domestic Violence

Immigration Status and Domestic Violence

If a person is a permanent resident of the United States, he or she can lose that status if he or she commits certain crimes.  Domestic violence is one example.  If a person pleads guilty or is found guilty of domestic violence, it is possible that immigration will attempt to deport that person shortly after the conviction enters.  

However, immigration law also recognizes that because Michigan’s standard for domestic violence in particular is so low, that most cases of basic domestic violence in Michigan do not necessarily make an immigrant deportable.

Domestic Violence

For someone to be deportable, the domestic violence act must be especially “violent.”  Federal law actually requires that the domestic violence also be what is called a “crime of violence.”  This means that the offender must have used significant violence in hurting the victim.  For example, if an act of domestic violence leaves serious injuries or marks on a victim’s body, or if the defendant used some kind of object to the victim, in such cases an individual could indeed be deportable under federal law for committing a “crime of violence.”

However, many times immigration will not examine the true circumstances of a domestic violence conviction before attempting to put someone in Immigration Court for Removal Proceedings or Deportation.  The Department of Homeland Security will simply demand that the person begin the process of Immigration Court, and force the person to defend his or her case against the possibility of deportation, and to explain the nature of his or her domestic violence conviction in Immigration Court Removal Proceedings.  This process is very difficult and dangerous, so if you or anyone you know has been accused of domestic violence and is not a United States citizen, he or she should talk to a lawyer immediately to get professional help.

Moral Turpitude

Additionally, if a domestic violence conviction has elements of what immigration law refers to as “Moral Turpitude,” it can make someone deportable if they have TWO crimes on his or her record of this type.  Not every crime of domestic violence will have these elements.  Some convictions do have it, and some do not.  It is very important to distinguish between a “crime of moral turpitude” and a “crime of violence.”  Crimes of violence were discussed above.  It may seem like an unnatural distinction between a crime “involving moral turpitude” and a “crime of violence.”  Both are different categories of crimes that have implications for immigration status.  This may seem confusing, but it is our job to sort all of this out!

Another consequence of a domestic violence conviction—if it is a crime of moral turpitude—is the possibility of immigration detaining a person without bond.  When a person is arrested by immigration, he or she may be eligible for a bond that he or she could pay and leave immigration detention to be with his or her family.  If a person detained by immigration does NOT get bond, then he or she will have to fight his or her case from jail, and could possibly depart the country from jail, without ever having the opportunity to say goodbye to his or her family.

Lessons from the Past

Laws and speeches do not build schools. They do not put capable teachers in the schools. And they do not give children the food, the clothing, the books and the encouragement they need if they are to stay in the shiny new school we build. Laws by themselves will not make a land reform–if farmers do not also have access to credit and technical assistance and fertilizers. Laws and economic aid and reforms by themselves will not create jobs–unless someone is determined to use these economic resources to create the jobs. Laws by themselves will not insure farm workers the minimum wage–unless we act to insure that the laws are enforced. And all our economic, social, and material progress will be for nothing if we do not at the same time move toward increasing freedom, toward a society where all can freely speak and act to share in the decisions which shape their lives.

Bobby Kennedy

Remarks, Catholic University, Rio de Janeiro, November 25, 1965

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