Most felons in U.S. prisons are citizens of the United States. Not all who commit felonies are U.S. citizens.
There are currently 45,000 federal inmates that are non-citizens, approximately 21.9% of the total federal prison population, while 11.9% of federal inmates are illegal immigrants.
This blog post will cover the question of whether a felony will affect immigration.
- Immigration Process
- Committing a Felony as a Legal Immigrant
- Aggravated Felony
- Crime of Moral Turpitude
- Illegal Immigrants
- Supporting a Felon Immigrant
Those persons entering the U.S. legally and who are planning to stay in this country for more than 90 days are typically required to have a visa.
As a foreign-born person, there are regulations they must meet to be able to live in this country as an immigrant.
U.S. law states that only a set number of people can be granted residence in the U.S. each year.
Those that wish to reside here must apply for a green card.
Having a green card, which derived its name from the color of the card, will allow persons to live in this country. However, the government strictly limits the number of immigrants who are allowed to live here.
There are a number of categories considered for a green card.
One of these is for those who are planning to marry a U.S. citizen. This requires a K-1 visa, a temporary non-immigrant visa, allowing a foreign born person to remain in this country for 90 days after marrying.
After getting married, they may apply for a change in status to permit them to remain in the U.S. with a green card, which is a permanent status visa.
Committing a Felony as a Legal Immigrant
The commission of a felony will not necessarily result in being deported.
Those living in the U.S. as a non-citizen who commits an aggravated felony or a crime involving moral turpitude typically are deported and may be ineligible to re-enter the U.S. in the future.
Some aggravated felonies may be considered a misdemeanor in some states. In fact, immigration law may include felonies considered serious under immigration law while they are not that serious under criminal law.
Aggravated felonies, according to immigration, include ones typically considered aggravated:
- Drug trafficking
- Trafficking in firearms or explosives
- Violent crimes with a sentence of at least one year
- Theft or receiving stolen property with a sentence of at least one year
- Crimes involving ransom
- Rape or sexual abuse of a minor
- Child pornography
The following crimes are also classified as aggravated felonies:
- Gambling with at least a one year sentence
- Racketeering with at least a one year sentence
- Money laundering over $10,000
- Engaging in prostitution or slavery
- Fraud or tax evasion of at least $10,000
- Smuggling of undocumented people
- Illegal re-entry after deportation for an aggravated felony
- Document fraud with at least a one year sentence
- Failure to appear to serve a sentence for a crime with at least a five year sentence
- Commercial bribery, counterfeiting, or forgery with a sentence of at least one year
- Obstruction of justice, perjury, or bribery with at least a one year sentence
- Failure to appear in court for a felony charge that carries at least a two year sentence
- An attempt to commit any of the above offenses
Felon immigrants can be deported for any drug conviction unless the conviction is for simple possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana.
Crime of Moral Turpitude
Felon immigrants can also be deported for any crime of moral turpitude committed within five years of admission into the U.S., if that conviction resulted in a sentence of at least one year.
A crime of moral turpitude is one that violates accepted standards of the society or community.
Felonies in this category include:
- Tax evasion
- Wire fraud
- Carrying a concealed weapon
- Child abuse
Any felon immigrant who is facing deportation due to an aggravated felony or crime of moral turpitude should contact an attorney who is experienced in criminal and immigration law.
Felons convicted of an aggravated felony who are deported face severe consequences if they re-enter the U.S. They can be imprisoned for up to 20 years for returning to this country.
Those who are in the U.S. on legal immigrant status are in a special position. They must take care not to commit a crime, which could result in deportation or a downgrade in their status.
Then, there are those living in the U.S. that are not permanent residents. While they live here, they are in this country illegally.
Recently with more scrutiny of illegal aliens, committing a crime of any type places them at high risk for being deported. So, of course a felony, whether an aggravated felony or one involving moral turpitude, will result in deportation.
The following are the possible consequences for those immigrants that commit an aggravated felony:
- Legal permanent resident – Subject to deportation; may be detained while legal removal proceedings take place. May be restricted from becoming a U.S. citizen
- Refugee that is not a permanent resident – May be deported after any criminal conviction
- Non-citizen with temporary lawful status (Those with nonimmigrant visas) – May be deported for any felony conviction
- Non-citizen without legal status – Any criminal conviction (felony or misdemeanor) can result in deportation
Those non-citizen felons that are in the position of having committed an aggravated felony or crime of moral turpitude need to contact a criminal and immigration attorney as soon as possible.
Felons must be honest with their attorney regarding their situation. It is serious enough without adding dishonesty to the circumstances. After all, their remaining in the U.S. hangs in the balance.
It is important that they give themselves the best chance possible to succeed.
Supporting a Felon Immigrant
Families of felons that are immigrants should be supportive but honest with their loved one and be clear that they don’t want them to end up having their immigration revoked as a result of a felony.
Tell it to them straight. Encourage them to be honest about their situation.
Don’t allow them to be blinded and make mistakes like the ones that led them to prison in the first place.
Let them know you are there for them. Honesty will work best for all involved.
What do you think about this blog post? Have you or someone you know who is a felon committed a felony as an immigrant? What was that like for them, what happened, and were they successful? Please tell us in the comments below.