Immigration has been a major focus of America politics for more than a decade. In the last eight years, the Obama Administration has deported over 2.5 million people, more than any president in U.S. history. The incoming administration has vowed to be much tougher on immigrants and the cornerstone of President-elect Trump's immigration policy is removing those who commit crimes.
Border states, such as Texas, have reported being the hardest hit by criminal activity among undocumented immigrants. This has caused Texas officials to become immigration hardliners who work closely with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
For those who entered the country legally, criminal offenses can still lead to deportation. One of the measures ICE uses is whether you have committed a crime of "moral turpitude" within five years of entering the country. Some examples are:
- Drug dealing
- Tax evasion
- Crimes involving assault or bodily harm
- Murder or manslaughter
During the first five years in America, immigrants are subject to loss of green cards and deportation if convicted of a crime. After crossing the five-year threshold, your status may be adjusted, stopping an automatic deportation for a conviction involving a crime of moral turpitude.
However, if you are convicted of two such crimes before completing your pathway to citizenship, you may be deported regardless of how much time has passed. Some consider this a "two strike" rule.
Loss of legal status without conviction
Legal immigrants and green card holders may be subject to deportation if the government believes their behavior is detrimental to society. The majority of these cases involve drug abuse and addiction allegations.
The government doesn't necessary need to gain a conviction. Officials may simply assess a person's relationship with drugs and deem him or her unfit. They can claim that you have violated the requirement of being of "good moral character" while in the country. Being flagged as a drug abuser could also bar you from re-entering the country at a later date.
Protecting your legal status
Although immigration laws are tough and are expected to get even tougher, there are issues your attorney can explore to protect your legal status. One option is to obtain a waiver.
The Immigration and Nationality Act gives the Attorney General the discretion to waive moral turpitude claims. This may open the door for you to keep your legal status by applying or reapplying for a green card.
Other ways an attorney could protect your status include:
- Getting charges reduced
- Obtaining a not-guilty verdict
If you have a brush with the law, it's important that you work with an experienced immigration attorney.