Arrest or conviction
People convicted of crimes of moral turpitude (includes theft – i.e., shoplifting) are not admissible to the U.S. There is an exception for one petty offense (misdemeanor shoplifting is usually a petty offense but not always). Conviction of an aggravated felony is a deportable offense.
States have given the immigration service many conviction records. Often green card holders with old convictions are stopped upon return to the U.S. from a vacation or business trip and are put in deportation proceedings.
These cases are often very complex. Conviction for what was once a college prank or a marijuana possession charge may now result in deportation for a temporary visa or green card holder. It is thus advisable for people to naturalize, particularly for young people unless one has an arrest or conviction making them ineligible to naturalize.
A green card holder was convicted of assault and battery. He felt he was innocent but pleaded no contest and was required to participate in an anger management program. Upon return to the U.S. after a trip to his native country, the San Francisco airport immigration inspector saw his conviction in the computer. His inspection was deferred to the local immigration office. Martin Lawler referred the foreign national to criminal counsel who moved the state court to reopen and vacate (eliminate) the conviction rendering him admissible as there was no longer a conviction. He was then admitted and he retained his green card.
Any foreign national or permanent resident who is arrested or has a criminal charge or conviction should consult with us before entering a plea; or traveling to Canada, Mexico or overseas; or having any contact with the government, such as applying for naturalization, or renewing a green card.
A long time permanent resident was twice convicted of shoplifting in the early 1990s. A shoplifting conviction is a crime of “moral turpitude.” The Immigration Act provides a person is inadmissible if convicted of two crimes of moral turpitude, or one if the possible sentence is more than a year. There is an exception for a “petty offense,” but only one.
Upon return to the U.S., this person’s inspection was deferred to the immigration service district office where he was placed in removal proceedings.
Since his conviction was before 1996, he applied for 212(c) relief – to stay in the U.S. and keep his green card. For 212(c) one needs to show rehabilitation and ties to the U.S. such as family and business. With Martin Lawler’s help he was granted a 212(c) waiver by the immigration judge.
Deportation without a conviction
Some people may be found inadmissible or deportable for criminal activity even without a conviction. An arrest for spousal abuse or drug trafficking are examples where one may be put in removal proceedings without a conviction.
At the time of renewing a green card or naturalization, the USCIS will run a criminal record check and one may face deportation for certain criminal activity. Criminal conduct may also bar a person showing good moral character required for naturalization.
Thus, it is extremely important that arrested foreign nationals or green card holders consult with us so that we may work with criminal counsel to analyze any immigration consequences of the arrest, plea, and/or conviction. Martin Lawler has considerable experience in this area.
An individual in the U.S., or upon admission to the U.S., may apply for asylum if they have or will be persecuted by their home country’s government on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.
There are actually three bases for this relief: asylum, withholding of deportation, and Convention on Torture. For asylum the application must be filed within one year of arrival or show circumstances changed in one’s homeland.
Martin Lawler and Hope Frye have successfully won many asylum cases for people from throughout the world. We recently were successful on a “gender based” withholding case. The female applicant was found to be part of a social group as a female who had been abused by her husband, who was a low-level political henchman. This case, like most asylum cases, was difficult to document and prove.
Martin Lawler works closely with expert witnesses and others to fully explain the facts of the case.