Legal Options When Facing Deportation after a Conviction

Legal Options When Facing Deportation after a Conviction

Being convicted of a crime as a non-citizen can have severe immigration consequences, including deportation. However, there are some legal options that may help prevent deportation or allow you to legally return to the U.S. after being deported.

Understanding How Crimes Lead to Deportation

The main categories of crimes that can trigger deportation proceedings are:

  • Aggravated felonies – Includes murder, rape, sexual abuse of a minor, drug trafficking, firearms trafficking, fraud over $10,000, and theft or violence with a 1+ year sentence
  • Crimes involving moral turpitude (CIMT) – Broad category that includes fraud, theft, violence, etc. Deportable if committed within 5 years of admission and sentence is 1+ year
  • Controlled substance offenses – Includes any drug crime except simple possession of 30g or less of marijuana

So even a minor offense can potentially lead to deportation. And if you’re convicted of an aggravated felony, there is little chance to avoid deportation [14].

Post-Conviction Relief

If you’ve already been convicted, post-conviction relief may help. This involves challenging the conviction itself in criminal court to erase or modify it so it no longer triggers deportation [5]. Options include:

  • Appealing the conviction
  • Filing a writ of coram nobis
  • Seeking a governor’s pardon
  • Vacating the conviction if your rights were violated or your attorney failed to advise on immigration consequences

This can eliminate the grounds for removal, but it’s complex and strict requirements apply [11].

Waivers of Inadmissibility or Deportation

In some cases, you may qualify for a waiver or cancellation of removal to overcome inadmissibility or deportation. These include:

  • 212(h) waiver – For crimes of moral turpitude and simple possession. Must prove extreme hardship to citizen/permanent resident spouse, parent or child.
  • Cancellation of removal – For lawful permanent residents without aggravated felony convictions, based on long-term residence and hardship.

However, strict eligibility rules apply and you often need immediate relatives who are citizens or permanent residents [14].

Withholding of Removal

Withholding of removal prevents deportation to countries where you would likely face persecution or torture. You must prove it’s “more likely than not” you would be in danger there [14].

Returning to the U.S. After Deportation

If you get deported on criminal grounds, legally returning will be very difficult. But a few options exist:

  • A governor’s pardon or vacated conviction may remove grounds for inadmissibility
  • DHS may grant a waiver of inadmissibility if deportation would cause extreme hardship to relatives who are citizens or permanent residents
  • After 10 years abroad, you may apply for special consent to reapply for admission, but it’s rarely granted [21]

An experienced immigration attorney is best equipped to help analyze all options and develop an effective strategy. Don’t lose hope – it can be an uphill battle, but many have successfully fought deportation and returned to the U.S. after a conviction.

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