All immigrants, including those with green cards, can be deported if they violate U.S. immigration laws. The most common reason for people to be placed into removal proceedings is that there is evidence that they have committed a crime. Specifically, immigrants can be deported if they commit either what is called a “crime of moral turpitude” under certain conditions described in this article, or an “aggravated felony,” unless the crime counts as a petty offense. In addition, certain crimes are specifically listed within the immigration laws as being grounds of deport-ability.
When detained for unlawful presence individuals are arrested and placed in a detention facility. At this time, the alleged offender will most likely be forced to contend with removal/deportation proceedings and the underlying criminal offense. The complicated nature of immigration charges and ancillary deportation/removal proceedings makes obtaining experienced immigration crimes defense counsel an imperative for reducing risk and increasing the chances of a favorable outcome.
“Crimes of moral turpitude” are not well defined in U.S. immigration law. However, the Department of State has notes that the most common elements of a moral turpitude crime will include “fraud, larceny, and intent to harm persons or things.” Crimes involving dishonesty and theft will almost always be considered crimes of moral turpitude. Other examples would be assault with the intent to rob or kill, spousal abuse, and aggravated driving under the influence (“DUI” or “DWI”). There are two different ways that committing a crime of moral turpitude will put you into removal (deportation) proceedings:
- Committing a crime of moral turpitude during the first five years after your admission to the United States.
- Committing two or more crimes of moral turpitude that did not arise out of a single scheme of criminal misconduct at any time after your admission to the United States. Keep reading to learn more about how to determine whether you are at risk of deportation for a crime involving moral turpitude.
The following list outlines some of the offenses which may trigger removal or deportation:
- Conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude that was committed within five years after the date of U.S. admission (or ten years if the person received a green card as a criminal informant and is punishable by a sentence of at least one year.
- Conviction of two or more crimes involving moral turpitude at any time after U.S. admission, where the two crimes did not arise out of a single scheme of misconduct.
- Conviction of an aggravated felony at any time after U.S. admission.
- Conviction of high-speed flight from an immigration checkpoint.
- Failing to register as a sex offender.
- Conviction of a drug crime (or a conspiracy or attempt to commit one), whether in the U.S. or another country, at any time after U.S. admission.
- Conviction for illegally buying, selling, possessing, or engaging in other transactions concerning firearms, weapons, or destructive devices.
- Conviction for committing, or conspiring to commit espionage, sabotage, treason, or sedition, if punishable by at least five years in prison.
- Violation of the Military Selective Service Act or the Trading With the Enemy Act.
- Violating certain travel and documentation restrictions or imported aliens for immoral purposes.
- Convictions for domestic violence, stalking, child abuse, child neglect, or child abandonment, at any time after U.S. admission.
- Violating the portion of a protective order that is meant to stop credible threats of violence, repeated harassment, or bodily injury.
- Committing or conspiring to commit human trafficking inside or outside the U.S. or has apparently been a knowing aider, abettor, assister, conspirator, or colluder with in severe forms of human trafficking; or is the trafficker’s spouse, or daughter who, within the past five years, knowingly received any financial or other benefit from the illicit activity.
- Failing to advise the immigration authorities, in writing, of a change of address within ten days of the move, unless the person can prove that such failure was reasonably excusable or not willful.
- Convictions for providing false information in connection with a requirement to register with immigration authorities or of other violations relating to fraud and misuse of visas, permits, and other entry documents.
- Received a final order of deportation for document fraud, forgery, counterfeiting, or related violations.
- Falsely representing himself or herself as a U.S. citizen in order to gain any immigration or other benefit. An exception is made if the person’s parents (natural or adoptive) are or were U.S. citizens, the person lived in the United States before age 16, and the person reasonably believed himself or herself to be a U.S. citizen.
- Engaging, in espionage, sabotage, or violations or evasions of any law prohibiting export of goods, technology, or sensitive information, or in any other criminal activity that is a danger to public safety or national security, or acts in opposition to, or attempts to control or overthrow the U.S. government by force, violence, or other unlawful means.
- Engaging in terrorist activity, or has incited terrorist activity, or is a representative a terrorist organization or group that endorses or espouses terrorist activity, or is a member of a terrorist organization (unless the person proves that he had no idea of its terrorist aims), or endorses or espouses terrorist activity or persuades others to do so, or has received military-type training from or on behalf a terrorist organization, or is the terrorist’s spouse or child, if the relevant activity took place within the last five years.
- Presence in the U.S., would create potentially serious adverse foreign policy consequences.
- Participated in Nazi persecution, genocide, torture, or extrajudicial killings, severe violations of religious freedom, or recruitment or use of child soldiers.
- Voting in violation of any federal, state, or local law. An exception is made for people who, based on parentage, reasonably believed themselves to be U.S. citizens.
A judicial order of deportation can be requested only if the offense for which the alien will be sentenced renders such alien deportable on one or more of the following grounds:
- Crime of Moral Turpitude, 8 U.S.C. § 1251(a)(2)(A)(i) The alien must be convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude committed within five years after the date of entry, and sentenced to confinement or confined therefor for one year or longer. Although the conviction must occur within five years of entry, any entry into the United States may be used to support the charge of deportability.
- Multiple Criminal Convictions, 8 U.S.C. § 1251(a)(2)(A)(ii) A conviction for two or more crimes involving moral turpitude at any time after entry would render an alien deportable, so long as the offenses did not arise out of a single scheme, and regardless of whether the alien was confined therefor. Conceivably, two misdemeanor convictions, not arising out of a single scheme, for crimes involving moral turpitude would make an alien deportable under this provision.
- Aggravated Felony 8 U.S.C. § 1251(a)(2)(A)(iii) An alien convicted of an “aggravated felony,” as defined in 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(43), is deportable. The Immigration and Nationality Technical Corrections Act of 1994 expanded the number of aggravated felony offenses. (Some, but not all aggravated felonies, would also be crimes involving moral turpitude.) Aggravated felonies now include:
- Illicit trafficking in a controlled substance
- Illicit trafficking in firearms, destructive devices, or explosive materials
- Money laundering or engaging in a monetary transaction in property derived from specific unlawful activity if the amount of the funds exceeded $100,000
- Offenses described in various sections of Title 18 relating to explosive materials or firearms
- Crimes of violence for which the term of imprisonment imposed is at least 5 years
- Crimes of theft or burglary for which the term of imprisonment imposed is at least 5 years
- Offenses described in various sections of Title 18 relating to the demand or receipt of ransom
- Offenses described in 18 U.S.C. § 2251, 2251A, or 2252 relating to child pornography
- An offense described in 18 U.S.C. § 1962 relating to investing income derived from racketeer-influenced organizations
- Offenses relating to owning, controlling, managing, or supervising a prostitution business or an offense described in various sections of Title 18 relating to slavery, peonage, and involuntary servitude
- Offenses relating to gathering or transmitting national defense information, disclosing of classified information, treason, or intentionally disclosing the identity of undercover intelligence agents
- Offenses involving fraud in which the loss to the victim exceeds $200,000, or tax evasion in which the revenue loss to the government exceeds $200,000
- An offense relating to alien smuggling for commercial advantage
- An offense under 18 U.S.C. § 1546(a) which constitutes trafficking in fraudulent documents for which the term of imprisonment imposed is at least 5 years
- An offense relating to failure to appear by a defendant for service of sentence if the underlying offense is punishable by imprisonment for a term of 15 years or more
- Any attempt or conspiracy to commit one of the above offenses.
Outside of the penalties for the underlying crime which prompted the deportation proceedings the process of criminal deportation involves only the process of removing a foreign national from the United States. An alien who has been deported U.S. may be barred from reentry for five, ten, or 20 years, or even permanently depending on the circumstances surrounding the deportation.
Immigration law provides that a crime can escape classification as a crime of moral turpitude if it is a “petty offense.” The petty offense exception applies if the penalty for the crime committed could never exceed one year of imprisonment, and if any time the person actually served in prison was less than six months. Examples of petty offenses could include shoplifting, simple assault, or a DUI that did not involve driving without a license or damage to property or persons, depending on the law in your state.
Data on deportations during the Obama administration show that two-thirds of the nearly two million deportation cases involve people charged wit minor infractions. Twenty percent — or about 394,000 — of the cases involved people convicted of serious crimes, including drug-related offenses, the records show. What this shows is that the US government is show less tolerance for any criminal conduct by foreign nationals in the United States.