When a non-citizen is arrested or charged with a crime, they face a new set of obstacles with regard to their immigration status. Some refer to this as crimmigration. Deportation can be a very real possibility for immigrants with a criminal conviction. Families can be torn apart in an instant. Once arrested, anyone who is not a citizen could be sent to a detention center. Just being charged with a crime can affect an immigration application, as many types of filings require a clean police record. Crimes like shoplifting can have the same deportation consequences as being convicted for rape or murder.
Undocumented immigrants are not the only ones subject to such consequences. Convictions can cause Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs) to lose their green cards or their eligibility to obtain United States citizenship. It could also affect their ability to petition for other family members. Depending on the nature of the crime, LPRs can be subject to inadmissibility. This means that if the LPR leaves the country for any reason, they could be blocked from returning.
Immigration laws and policies are constantly changing, and that could factor heavily into how immigrants and LPRs should proceed once charged. It is imperative that all non-citizens who are arrested or accused of committing a crime seek the advice of a licensed attorney familiar in criminal law as well as immigration law. Immigrants, visa holders, and LPRs need to be made aware of their rights in a criminal court as well as the possible immigration consequences. Immigration consultants and “notarios” cannot represent non-citizens in immigration proceedings.
The most secure path to getting through a criminal investigation without damage to an immigration status is to hire an experienced lawyer.