Can ICE Use the Sex Offender Registry to Deport Immigrants?

Can ICE Use the Sex Offender Registry to Deport Immigrants?

Immigration is like, a totally complex issue, ya know? And when you throw in spicy stuff like sex crimes and deportation, things get even more complicated. As an immigration lawyer, I get asked about this kinda thing a lot. Can ICE really use the sex offender registry to deport immigrants? What if they already served their time? Do they still get the boot? People wanna know. I’m gonna break it down for you so you understand what’s up.

The Short Answer

The short answer is: yes, technically ICE can try to deport immigrants for being on the sex offender registry. But there’s a bunch of caveats and stuff. It’s not always so black and white or clear cut.

How ICE Uses the Sex Offender Registry

So here’s the deal. ICE has this bad boy called the Criminal Alien Program (CAP). Their whole goal is to catch immigrants who have, ya know, done crimes and junk, and then try to deport them. They work with local jails and prisons to find foreign-born folks who might be deportable.

Part of how CAP finds “criminal aliens” is by searching sex offender registries. If they find someone who isn’t a citizen on there – boom. Deportation target acquired. They’ll take that sucker to immigration court to try to give them the ole heave ho out of the country.

Some Specifics on CAP

  • Started in 2007 under ICE’s “Secure Communities” program
  • Screen inmates when booked into jail to check immigration status
  • Access FBI and DHS databases to identify deportable immigrants
  • Issue detainers to hold immigrants after release from jail

So yeah, long story short – CAP actively uses the sex offender registry to find potential deportees. Kind of a drag if you already did your time, ya know? But that’s the biz.

When do Sex Crimes Make Someone Deportable?

Alright, buckle up folks cuz this part gets a lil’ complicated. The law ’round these parts says that any immigrant convicted of an “aggravated felony” can get deported. Aggravated felonies include stuff like murder, rape, sexual abuse of a minor, and failure to register as a sex offender.

There’s also this thing called a “crime involving moral turpitude” (CIMT for short, cuz why not). A CIMT is basically something that violates accepted moral standards, like fraud or child abuse. Some sex crimes fall into this category too.

Key Takeaways on Crimes That Can Get You Deported:

  • Aggravated felonies (murder, rape, sexual abuse of a minor, etc.)
  • Failure to register as a sex offender
  • Crimes involving moral turpitude (child abuse, some sex offenses)

So if an immigrant is convicted of one of those, then yep – ICE can try to deport their behind. But again, it’s not always so simple. Let’s get into that…

It’s Complicated – Defenses Against Deportation

While it’s true that conviction for certain sex offenses can start deportation proceedings, there are still defenses and exceptions. As a wise woman once said, “It’s complicated.”

Possible Defenses

  • Crime doesn’t meet definition of “aggravated felony” or “crime involving moral turpitude”
  • Immigrant is applying for asylum or other relief
  • Immigrant is eligible for cancellation of removal
  • Immigrant is the spouse, parent or child of a U.S. citizen

There are also issues around due process and cruel/unusual punishment. Like, if someone already served their sentence, is it really fair to deport them years later? Immigration courts have overturned some deportations on those grounds before. So it’s not always cut and dried.

The main takeaway here is – if ICE tries to deport an immigrant just for being on the sex offender registry, there are still potential defenses. A good immigration lawyer can help fight it.

What About Asylum and Refugee Status?

Here’s another curveball. Let’s say an immigrant tries to register as a sex offender, but gets scared they’ll be deported. So they don’t register. Then they get arrested for failure to register. Can that come back to bite them if they’re seeking asylum or refugee status?

Basically, yes. Failure to register as a sex offender is considered an aggravated felony. That can make someone ineligible for asylum or refugee status. But again (broken record alert) it depends on specifics of the case. An experienced immigration attorney may still be able to argue their way around it.

The Takeaway on ICE, Sex Crimes, and Deportation

The bottom line is, it’s mad complicated. ICE absolutely does use the sex offender registry to find and try to deport immigrants. Certain sex crime convictions can start removal proceedings too. But there are still potential exceptions and defenses along the way. And immigration courts don’t always agree with ICE.

So if you or someone you care about is an immigrant on the sex offender registry, don’t panic. Talk to an immigration lawyer ASAP about options. There still may be ways to fight deportation. It ain’t over til it’s over.

Let me know if you have any other Q’s on this. I know it’s kinda confusing. Stay outta trouble ya’ll!


Here are some additional resources on the topic: