A Green Card allows non-citizens to enjoy many of the rights and protections of United States citizens. Green Cards also come with conditions and responsibilities. If you are a Green Card holder and facing certain criminal charges, a conviction can lead to your deportation.
To protect yourself and your family from this upheaval, trust your case with an experienced lawyer from Simmrin Law Group. You can contact us for a free consultation today.
What Is a Green Card?
A Green Card is proof of a non-citizen’s legal authorization to live and work in the United States (US) on a permanent basis. You can apply for a Green Card if you meet the eligibility criteria. To fulfill eligibility, you must be able to pursue a Green Card through:
- Special immigrant status
- Refugee or Asylum-seeking status
- Status as a victim of a crime or human trafficking
- Status as a victim of abuse
- Registry (if you have lived in the US continuously since 1972)
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What Rights Does a Green Card Provide?
If you are not a US citizen but have applied for and been granted a Green Card, you have the status of “permanent resident.” Under this status, you can legally:
- Live in the US permanently as long as you do not commit acts that warrant your removal from the country under US immigration laws
- Pursue and maintain lawful employment
- Enjoy the protections of the laws of your local jurisdictions, the state in which you live, and federal laws
Green cards serve as proof of employment eligibility and allow you to apply for a Social Security Card and a state driver’s license. Once issued, your Green Card is valid for 10 years.
What Responsibilities Must Permanent Residents Uphold?
As a permanent resident, you must:
- Obey all local, state, and federal US laws
- Report income to the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and file income tax returns
- Support the US form of government; however, you are not permitted to vote in local, state, or federal elections
- Register with the military Selective Service if you are male and fall in the 18-25 year age range
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Can I Be Deported with a Green Card?
As per the federal Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), there are crimes for which non-citizens can be removed, or deported, even if they hold a Green Card and permanent residence status.
The deportation can occur no matter how long the offender has lived in the US or how established they are in the country. Even residents with dependent children who are US citizens can be deported after committing a “deportable crime.”
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What Crimes Can Lead to Deportation?
Not every crime fits the “deportable crimes” classification. Deportable crimes are established in Section 237 of the INA and 8 U.S. Code § 1227.
The categories for most deportable crimes are:
- Crimes of moral turpitude (CIMT): these crimes involve intent to harm others or their property. CIMT crimes include theft and fraud, among others, and the classification can apply to driving under the influence (DUI) or domestic abuse.
- Aggravated felonies: drug or firearm trafficking, murder, and rape. No matter how many years have passed since your admittance to the US, you can be deported.
- Controlled substance offenses: In California, if convicted for the possession, distribution, or selling of illegal substances, you can be deported. There is an exception for holding only small amounts of marijuana for personal use.
- Firearms offenses: selling, purchasing, illegally owning, or carrying a firearm.
- Crimes against the US: espionage, treason, terrorism.
- Familial/relationship violence: Domestic violence, stalking, or child abuse charges
- White collar offenses: Filing false documents
Can I Return to the U.S. After Deportation?
If you are deported because of an aggravated felony conviction, you can not return to the US. If you are convicted on other charges, you may be permitted to return after a specified period. It is probable you will have to wait at least 10 years to file the application and fees required for permission to re-enter the country.
Can I Be Deported without a Conviction?
In most cases, INA 237 requires a conviction to deport a Green Card Holder. There are times when deportations are ordered without a conviction. These scenarios relate to the standard of “Good Moral Character” (GMC) required for those pursuing or holding Green Cards or applying for citizenship.
- You used drugs or became addicted to drugs since entering the US
- You are suspected, with cause, by the government of engaging in prostitution or drug trafficking
- You are a “habitual drunkard,” a status proved through documents such as divorce decrees and employment and/or arrest records. A “habitual drunkard” classification can also stem from employment termination or periods of unexplained unemployment, or multiple arrests or convictions of public intoxication or DUI
How Quickly Does Deportation Occur?
If you are a Green card holder and violate U.S. laws, you will not face immediate deportation. You have the right to a hearing before an immigration judge and 30 days to appeal the removal order. Once the order is finalized, you have 90 days until you must report to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to arrange travel to your home country.
If you are under expedited removal procedures, the order may be for immediate removal, which does not allow for a hearing before an immigration judge, and denies re-entry to the US for a minimum of five years. Expedited removals are typically issued to those who enter the US illegally or with forged documents.
If you can prove either of the following, you may avoid expedited deportation:
- Returning to your home country threatens your safety, and you request status as an asylum seeker.
- You are in the US legally and entitled to a hearing before an immigration judge.
How Can I Protect Myself from Deportation Following a Conviction?
First, you need an attorney experienced in criminal defense and immigration who will explain your options, manage your case, and represent you in all court proceedings. Your lawyer may advise you to pursue one of these options to avoid deportation:
- Apply for a waiver granting legal forgiveness if your specific circumstances allow
- Claim the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) improperly served a Notice to Appear (NTA). The NTA begins the removal process
- Claim the DHS has not proved you are removable as charged
- Seek cancellation of the removal order. This option is available to non-citizens who have lawfully and continuously lived in the US for a minimum of seven years, have had a green card for a minimum of five years, and have not been convicted on aggravated felony charges
Protect Yourself from Deportation
If you are a Green Card holder facing criminal charges, your status as a permanent resident and your ability to continue living in the United States are in jeopardy. Criminal convictions can lead to your removal from the country and prevent you from returning. Protect yourself and your family from the impact of your deportation, and secure legal representation from a skilled defense attorney from Simmrin Law Group immediately.