How do criminal convictions affect immigration status?

Criminal convictions carry serious consequences for everyone, including potential fines and jail time. But consequences for all types of crimes, especially felonies, can put immigrants at serious risk for deportation.

Those with criminal convictions are much more likely to be arrested by immigration officials. In fact, in the 680 arrests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) earlier this year, approximately 75 percent of those individuals had prior criminal convictions.

.Immigration officials can potentially deport or downgrade the status of non-citizens for any criminal conviction. If the conviction is labeled an aggravated felony or crime or moral turpitude, an individual also may be ineligible for deportation relief and banned from re-entry into the United States.

The term "aggravated felony" in relation to immigration can encompass a range of criminal offenses. This can include seemingly minor offenses like DUI, theft and simple battery. And although there is no formal list of what is considered a crime of "moral turpitude," it has been used to label crimes such as tax evasion, wire fraud and carrying a concealed weapon.

Criminal convictions can result in different consequences depending on your immigration status:

  • Legal permanent residents: Subject to deportation and detainment during removal proceedings; subject to 20 years in prison for unlawful reentry; if not deported, may be barred from citizenship and naturalization
  • Refugee: May be deported even if they face grave danger in their home countries; if not deported, may result in barring from permanent-resident status
  • Asylee: Deportation can occur only after conviction for an aggravated felony or other "particularly serious crime;" if not deported can be banned from permanent resident status
  • Non-citizen with temporary lawful status: Can face deportation and removal after a felony conviction or multiple misdemeanor convictions
  • Non-citizen without lawful status: Any criminal conviction will most likely lead to deportation and removal proceedings

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