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Low-Level Crimes May Prioritize Deportation

When President Trump issued his executive orders on immigration in January 2017, the priorities for deportation expanded. In a memo issued in February 2017, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly announced that, although the agency will continue to prioritize the deportation of serious criminal offenders and national security, it will now do so while also deporting immigrants who do not fall into priority categories. Those who commit low-level crimes, even those with legal residency papers, may find themselves prioritized for detainment and deportation.

According to The Daily News, offenses that may lead to deportation include having committed a “crime of moral turpitude” (one that shows a depravity of character) within five years of legal status; a crime for which a judge can impose a sentence for at least one year; two or more crimes involving moral turpitude arising out of a single scheme of criminal misconduct; an aggravated felony; most drug-related offenses; or if the individual is addicted to drugs. A crime of moral turpitude often involves offenses of dishonesty and theft. Examples of moral turpitude may include, but are not limited to, robbery, aggravated assault, spousal abuse, child abuse, incest, kidnapping, mayhem, animal fighting, theft, fraud, or the conspiracy, attempt, or acting as an accessory to a crime if that crime involved moral turpitude. DWI and DWAI are not crimes involving moral turpitude, however they are negative factors for someone who is otherwise deportable, for any reason, or someone who is seeking a benefit, like a green card or citizenship.

Committing low-level offenses may also impact a non-citizen's ability to obtain full citizenship. Crimes committed within five years of application (three for those applying under special rules for a spouse of a U.S. citizen) may temporarily bar undocumented immigrants from citizenship. If the applicant commits a deportable crime, not only will they be barred from citizenship, but the naturalization examiner may be able to refer the case to deportation proceedings. In this instance, the individual will only be granted naturalization if he or she wins their deportation case.

Under the DHS memo's guidelines, any non-citizen charged with a crime is now labeled a “removable alien” and a priority for deportation. According to recent reports, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents have been more aggressive in detaining non-citizens, some have even appeared at New York City courthouses to arrest undocumented immigrants. Across New York, ICE agents effectively tracked scheduled court dates, appeared undercover, and detained non-citizens who were attempting to have their cases adjudicated. Contrary to the belief of the Trump administration, the majority of non-citizens were appearing at court dates not for serious offenses, but rather low-level, non-violent crimes, such as shoplifting and turnstile jumping, as reported by The Daily News.

Within the last couple of months, the U.S. has seen a significant shift in how low-level offenses can impact non-citizens, whether by barring them from citizenship or, ultimately, leading to their deportation. Today's immigration laws impose severe consequences on immigrants, even the ones who have lived here for a long period of time. For this reason, it is imperative that non-citizens who have been arrested for low-level crimes consult an experienced immigration law attorney who can protect their rights. The New York City immigration attorneys at Bretz & Coven, LLP are knowledgeable in all aspects of immigration law, including immigration eligibility with a criminal record. For more information or to schedule a consultation, call our New York immigration law office at (212) 267-2555.

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