Consequences of Criminal Conduct
Criminal Charges & Immigration Status in NYC and New Jersey
Criminal charges can create enormous complications for immigrants.
Even lawful permanent residents may be subject to removal, arrested and detained, or denied naturalization because of a criminal conviction—and some criminal matters do not require conviction to trigger inadmissibility or deportability for an immigrant.
Bretz & Coven represents immigrants who require help handling how criminal charges affect their status.
Our firm represented the young Jamaican woman detained on exclusion proceedings because of her criminal history in St. John v. McElroy, one of the nation’s most frequently cited cases for the idea that mandatory detention is unconstitutional.
We also work as of-counsel partners with criminal defense attorneys for non-citizen clients.
When You Need Help
Are you an alien or non-citizen who has been convicted of a crime?
If so you should consult with us before:
- apply for green card or naturalization
- renew your green card
Are you in removal proceedings as the result of a criminal convictions?
We are on the cutting edge of deportation defense and immigration litigation for aliens with criminal convictions.
Many of our cases come from other immigration lawyers who trust and respect that we are more experienced in this area then most lawyers. Our reputation in the legal field inspires frequent invitations to speak on the topic of removal because of criminal convictions.
Mr. Bretz began his career prosecuting these cases for the government, and the firm has attorneys in immigration court every day. Many of the firm's biggest victories in Federal Court involved aliens we represented in immigration court first.
Are you an alien currently facing criminal charges?
Clients often lament, "If I only knew I could be deported when I took that plea, I would never have taken it." The time to strategize your deportation defense is when you strategize your criminal defense.
A criminal conviction could have serious immigration consequences:
- Subject you to deportation/removal proceedings without relief or the ability to file for a waiver
- Subject you to arrest and mandatory detention
- Make you ineligible to naturalize or renew your green card
- Prevent you from obtaining residence
- Affect your ability to travel and petition for other family members
We have a long history of working with criminal lawyers and counseling criminal-alien defendants about pleas that would have the least immigration and deportation consequences.
Very often the instinctively lesser charge has a greater immigration consequence.
It Isn't Logical, but It's the Law
The current immigration law is not just unduly harsh—it is also illogical. For example, there are circumstances in which a person has a better chance of legally living in the United States and avoiding deportation if the criminal history occurs before they seek permanent residence and get his or her green card then if they had permanent residence and then were convicted.
Take this example:
Client A overstays his visa by ten years and marries a United States citizen. He is convicted of money laundering, bank fraud with a loss of $200,000, and grand theft. He is sentenced to four years in jail.
Although he is deportable for his crimes, he is still eligible to seek a green card and adjust his status based upon his marriage to a U.S. Citizen. It will not be easy, and he will need a waiver, but it will be possible.
Look at Client B:
Client has his green card for ten years and is also married to a U.S. Citizen. He gets convicted of the very same crimes with the same sentence. He is deportable and NO WAIVER is available.
The client without a green card has an opportunity at fighting deportation, and the client with a green card does not. This is just one example of what is NOT logical about immigration law.
Aggravated Felonies Aren't Really Aggravated Felonies
The term "aggravated felony" is defined in the Immigration and Nationality Act—but it's really misleading.
Very often, the term includes crimes that are NOT aggravated and are NOT felonies. In immigration law, "aggravated felony" is a term of art, and you might be convicted of one even if the crime doesn't quite suit the conviction.
Deportable Criminal Offenses
A small sample of some of the most common deportable offenses include:
- Theft, burglary, fraud offenses, money laundering and counterfeiting
- Domestic violence and violations of certain protection orders
- Unlawful possession of a firearm
- Controlled substances offenses
- Certain sex offenses, arson, racketeering
- Deferred adjudications for any other deportable offense where there is a finding of guilt coupled with some punishment—that means dismissals may trigger deportability!
Expunged and vacated convictions may in certain circumstances be treated as convictions for purposes of immigration. Examples of certain criminal activity that can make a person deportable or inadmissible without a conviction are:
- Holding oneself out to be a United States citizen (even just on a job application)
- Where there is reason to believe a non-citizen either was or is a trafficker in controlled substances
- Immigration fraud
- Marriage fraud
Bretz & Coven is extremely experienced in complicated matters involving criminal charges, convictions, and immigration law. We have helped immigrants facing criminal charges in many situations.