Immigration Issues in Tarrant County Criminal Cases

Deportation and immigration are among the most divisive issues of our time. There are strong feelings, and valid arguments, on each side. The government cannot give out visas like they were free samples at Sam’s, and the government cannot close the border and exclude everyone. That leaves an extremely large middle ground.

Citizenship issues can significantly affect your criminal case. The rules are confusing and often counterintuitive. But the process is very mechanical. For the most part, results are all that matter and the facts are basically irrelevant. So, it’s very important to be aware of the intricate rules.

The Deportation Rules

No non-citizens are immune from crime-related deportation. That includes workers who are here on HIB or other visas, green card holders, and persons who received political asylum. The list of deportable offenses includes:

· Aggravated Felony: Section 101(a)(43) of the Immigration and Naturalization Act includes a list of about three dozen aggravated felonies. Most of them, but not all of them, are crimes against individuals, like aggravated assault. Overall, the “aggravated” felony label is a bit misleading. Pretty much any felony conviction will at least trigger deportation proceedings.

· Crime of Moral Turpitude: The CMT designation is extremely vague. Generally, any crime with an evil intent is a CMT. Some cases, like rape, arson, murder, and burglary, are obvious. But any form of theft for any amount, including passing a bad check, is a crime of moral turpitude. Regulatory-type offenses, such as DWI, are generally not CMTs.

A single aggravated felony conviction is sufficient for deportation. But typically, the INA requires either one CMT conviction within five years of admission or two CMT convictions over any time period. Special rules may apply if the crime of moral turpitude is a misdemeanor.

Dealing with the Case

Many people are surprised that deferred adjudication counts as conviction for immigration purposes. Essentially, the government assumes that the disposition itself is just a technicality. After all, the defendant does plead guilty or no contest to the charges. A verified charge is enough for deportation.

The same thing probably applies to sealed records. Sometimes, ICE takes quite some time to launch deportation proceedings. Even if there is a delay, rest assured that you are still on the agency’s radar.

One good way to handle these cases is to get the charges reduced to a non-deportable offense. For example, an attorney could reduce aggravated assault charges to simple assault. Specific intent crimes like these are hard to prove. Many times, the prosecutor can easily establish general intent to injure. But the specific intent to do great bodily harm is more difficult to prove.

As a last resort, agreeing to leave the country voluntarily may be an option. The waiting return period in these cases is much shorter than it is in deportation cases.

Deportation may be the most serious collateral consequence of any criminal conviction. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Fort Worth, contact Herreth Law. We routinely handle cases in Tarrant County and nearby jurisdictions.