What Is Crimmigration? What Type Of Cases Evolve From It?
When I talk about Crimmigration, I am talking about the trend for there to be immigration consequences to criminal law matters, to lower municipal court matters, which deal mostly with the misdemeanors as opposed to felonies and to the also DWI matters. It’s always been a case that there are consequences that can come to people who have different citizenship statuses and that they’re going to differ and that they could lead to deportation or other or an ICE detainer or people coming to get you. But it’s become something which is more noticed by the courts now and really to practice criminal law, you need to either have an even basic understanding of the way the immigration system works with criminal violation, or you need to, at the very least, make sure that your client goes out and gets a consultation from an immigration attorney before they make any steps in their case.
In fact in New Jersey, in the municipal courts, based on some recent case law, there is an instruction given by the court in a specific case at the beginning of each municipal court session that they’ll give you an opportunity to go out and get an immigration consultation to make sure that you’re not getting into something which is going to affect your immigration status. In fact I had a case a couple of weeks ago where we were there to enter a plea and the judge found out that the defendant had a status and she wouldn’t take the plea. She said, “Go and speak to an immigration attorney”. There’s also the recent changes in the immigration law under President Trump that are incredibly significant and which changes the game even more and make it essential for people to take into account the interplay between immigration and criminal law.
What Is The History Or The Political Context associated With Crimmigration?
It is the onset of what happens when a conviction or a guilty plea goes through. In the past, generally speaking, if you had some violent crime, it was something that would be brought to the authorities to the immigration to their interest and crimes of moral turpitude and those in the lower courts tend to be prostitution, DWI and shoplifting. Not all DWIs, really a third offense DWI, DWI where somebody got hurt but the politics of this is that there’ve usually been too many immigrants who are in the country without documentation, some called illegal immigration that you can’t track everyone down and you can’t be throwing everyone out all at once.
So the government’s focused on what are their priorities. In the past, the priorities were, under President Obama, violent criminals and those categories of moral turpitude. Now, under President Trump, that’s changed completely and pretty much anyone who is getting involved in the criminal justice as a candidate to be removed. I speak to some immigration attorneys all the time about this and they say that’s not really what’s going on but it is something that’s got to be a concern based on the new immigration priorities. It used to be if you were one of the special categories, they would look at you. Now, if you’ve been arrested for a felony or arrested for a misdemeanor, convicted of a felony, convicted of a misdemeanor or even if you could have been arrested for either of those that you’re now subject to being a priority and deportation.
It’s somewhat hard for a criminal defense attorney to handle the case in an immigration context because whatever gets deported, it’s reported to ICE or to Homeland Security and they have the opportunity to say, we’re going to get rid of that person regardless of whether they’re convicted, not convicted. It used to be just if you are convicted, you had a problem. Now it’s if you’re arrested even, or even if you could have been arrested. Basically the categories are wide open and what the federal government is going to do with all those additional people being brought into the priorities is something that we’re trying to figure out.
Who Should Be Concerned About The Changing Policies And Rules Regarding Crimmigration?
Anyone who is an immigrant, an illegal immigrant without documentation certainly needs to be aware if they’ve been arrested for a crime. Some have said that the whole category of could have been arrested is to cover people who came into the country without going through the border or who overstayed their visa. But certainly even people who have come into the country, they came on the visa, they extended the work visa, they have resident status, anyone who’s not a citizen has to worry about this stuff. You can wonder about what is going to be the repercussions, are people are going to be more careful in their behavior? Possible. Are people going to be less likely to report crimes?
Possible. It’s really tough to figure out what’s going to be the blow back from all of this but one thing is for sure that if you’re not a citizen of the United States and you’re involved in the crime, even a minor crime, it can now be something which could invite a Crimmigration consequence.
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