Immigrants With Criminal Convictions Should not Presume That They are Not Eligible for Relief

Too often immigrants with criminal convictions who are eligible for relief from deportation fail to apply for appropriate relief. Under the immigration laws and recent court decisions, not all criminal convictions render an immigrant deportable. In fact, the immigrant may qualify for several types of relief despite his or her criminal record. Thus, it is quite important that the immigrant seek legal advice from a knowledgeable immigration attorney.

Although under the draconian 1996 Immigration Act, also known as IIRAIRA, almost all criminal convictions trigger deportability, there is often relief available. A wide range of criminal conduct from theft to spousal abuse may trigger deportability. However, depending on the immigration status of the immigrant, country of origin, the date of the conviction, the type and circumstances surrounding the illicit conduct, and family ties to the United States, the immigrant may be granted relief from deportation.

For example, under IIRAIRA an immigrant convicted of a firearm offense is deportable. However, the same law provides for relief for those immigrants who have been a permanent resident of the United States for more than five years and have continuously resided here for seven years in any status. Generally, the continuous physical presence is deemed “cut off” from the date of the commission of the illicit conduct. Yet, for the purposes of our example, the immigrant’s continuous physical presence is not “cut off” at the time he committed the firearm offense because the court has held that this type of offense does not “cut off” continuous physical presence. Accordingly, the immigrant would be eligible for relief despite his conviction and regardless of the date of the commission of the act.

This example illustrates the subtle complexities of the immigration laws with respect to immigrants with criminal convictions. No matter the type or date of the crime, an immigrant is eligible for relief. Of course, the types of relief will vary depending on the factors discussed above, but they should nevertheless be examined and presented to the court. Accordingly, an immigrant facing deportation should always seek legal advise from a knowledgeable immigration attorney before it is too late.