Non-U.S. citizens could face deportation if they are convicted of a crime

If you are in America as an undocumented immigrant, if you came to America on a visa that has since expired, or if you have a Green Card but are not a U.S. citizen, you likely came to the United States to seek a better life for yourself and your family. You may be an upstanding, law-abiding member of your community, but mistakes can be made. Sometimes these are big mistakes that lead to serious criminal charges. What you need to know, however, is that even minor criminal charges can lead to deportation.

 Crime and deportation

A crime as simple as a traffic citation could lead to criminal deportation, even if an immigrant is lawfully in the country but is not a U.S. citizen. Deportation is not reserved only for those who are serious or repeat offenders. A representative from the Immigrant Defense Project reports seeing many immigrants deported for seemingly minor crimes such as misdemeanor offenses, probation violations and petty theft.

Challenges with deportation

The Pew Charitable Trusts reports that the rate of crimes committed by first-generation immigrants is much lower than that of U.S. citizens. However, we do not have a clear picture of whether these are misdemeanors, felonies, violent crimes or nonviolent crimes. Federal data on deportees who had committed a crime does not state what crimes were committed. Moreover, U.S. immigration law does not clearly define what it means to be a “criminal alien.” A person who is undocumented could be considered a criminal alien but so may an authorized immigrant, depending on the crime committed. It does not seem to matter if the person is jailed, free or has already served their sentence.

The federal government has also expanded the term “aggravated felony” with regards to deportation to include crimes that are neither aggravated nor felonies. And since any new offenses added to the list of aggravated felonies applies retroactively, a person who committed one of these crimes years ago could still face criminal deportation. In addition, an immigrant can be deported if they commit a crime of “moral turpitude”

Know your rights if you are facing criminal deportation

Undocumented immigrants and documented immigrants in Memphis alike will want to do all they can to avoid committing a crime. However, we all make mistakes. For undocumented immigrants and documented immigrants these mistakes could lead to more than just a fine or jail time. They could lead to criminal deportation. It is important for anyone in Tennessee accused of a crime to understand their rights and options so they can make informed decisions.