Immigrants face uphill battle when accused of crimes

As the Trump administration continues its high-profile crackdown on immigration, many immigrants are worried. Some fear that anything they do to step out of line can endanger their immigration status.

Recently, the administration announced a new rule that could deny green cards to immigrants if they need public assistance, such as food stamps. The rule threatens to deny a path to citizenship to thousands of people in Massachusetts.

How the new rule will affect immigration remains to be seen. In the meantime, many immigrants find their status challenged after they face criminal charges.

Even before the recent crackdown, U.S. immigration law made it relatively easy for officials to deny entry or even to deport immigrants who are convicted of many crimes. Conviction on charges of certain types of crimes come with nearly automatic deportation. These include aggravated felonies and so-called crimes of moral turpitude. "Aggravated felonies" is a somewhat confusing term, because some crimes that are considered only misdemeanors under state law may be considered felonies under federal law. Crimes of moral turpitude is a broad category that includes certain violent crimes, most sex crimes, some property crimes, theft, fraud and weapons offenses.

Massachusetts law provides many protections for immigrants accused of crimes, but defending against criminal charges is not easy for anyone, and perhaps especially not for immigrants whose immigration status is vulnerable.

In these troubling times, it is more important than ever that immigrants seek out help from a skilled attorney. A lawyer can help immigrants who have been accused of crimes to understand their rights and options to protect their status.

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