In the United States, all immigrants—even who have obtained green cards—can risk being deported if they violate U.S. immigration laws. Naturally, data shows that the most common cause for people to be placed into removal proceedings is due to legal evidence of an immigrant convicted of a crime.
For USCIS consular officers and immigration judges looking over these cases, not all crimes carry equal weight. In other words, some crimes are more detestable than others, and will negatively impact your immigration status while others are less detrimental.
Specifically, immigrants are at higher risk of being deported if they are convicted of crimes categorized as either 1) “crimes of moral turpitude” or 2) “aggravated felony.” These two crimes are what immigrants would want to avoid at all costs, because these categories of crime have been known to justify deportation.
What are considered “crimes of moral turpitude”?
Surprisingly, USCIS and US immigration law does not actually explicitly define these crimes against moral turpitude in any absolute terms. Instead, lawyers and judges have often relied on precedents and the Department of State’s guidance notes when deciding on the matter.
That is not to say that there is no pattern to the past court decisions. Crimes of moral turpitude have often had many common elements such as crimes involving fraud, larceny, and the intent to harm others. Moreover, court records suggest that crimes where dishonesty is a factor will almost certainly be categorized as crimes of moral turpitude.
These are only a few examples to list. If you are unsure about the category of a specific crime, it’s best to consult a legal professional who can provide a holistic evaluation. These immigration lawyer will assess all the relevant facts to give an accurate prediction on how a court would interpret one’s crimes.
When is deportation likely to follow these crimes of moral turpitude?
USCIS considers a variety of factor when deciding which criminal offenders to deport. For instance, if immigrants commit a crime of moral turpitude within the first 5 years their admission date, they can be put into removal proceedings. Additionally, if immigrants commit 2 distinct crimes of moral turpitude (regardless of when admission was given), they can also be put into removal proceedings.
If one believes his or her crime has been wrongfully evaluated, it is possible to argue against your conviction. Past court record suggests that one’s probability of success in this appellate process is highly dependent on a convicted statute’s wording. For interested individuals, this would be a process where an immigration lawyer or legal counsel would be required.
There are certain other guidelines that lawyers can use to argue against a decision that a crime is deserving of moral turpitude status. The “petty offense” exception states that if a crime—i.e. shoplifting—is not associated with a maximum punishment that exceeds one year, it is exempt from the moral turpitude classification.
For immigrants with a past criminal record, understanding the petty offense exception can save them from possible deportations.
This is an immigration legal blog. It is not intended to be used as legal advice.
For further information please contact the law offices of attorney Ramona Kennedy.
Ramona Kennedy (Attorney) received her Jurisprudence Doctorate in America and is a licensed attorney in California (USA). Ramona Kennedy is a member of American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). Ramona Kennedy is fluent in English and Farsi (reading & writing) & speaks Azeri Turkish.
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