If you are a green card holder, however, you must take great care to follow both the law and the terms of your immigration status. When you, as a noncitizen are convicted of a crime, you might not be able to become a citizen, or you might lose your status and face deportation. If you are deported, you will not be allowed to return to the U.S. for many years. When a noncitizen is convicted of a crime, they might not be able to become a citizen, or they could lose their status and face deportation. If you are deported, you will not be allowed to return to the U.S. for many years.
The intersection between immigration law and criminal law is commonly referred to as crimmigration, and understanding this area will help you protect your rights and avoid serious consequences. Even well-meaning offenses (like driving to work without a license) may land you in immigration court.
The following is a list of 4 steps to take if you are arrested for a crime as a noncitizen. If you need personalized information and advocacy, please do not hesitate to contact our law firm.
1. Exercise Your Right to Remain Silent
Even as a noncitizen, you have the right to remain silent after an arrest. You do not need to answer questions asked by the police, other law enforcement officials, or even immigration officials. Be sure to clearly state that you are exercising your right to remain silent.
You also do not need to disclose your immigration status if they ask—but DO NOT lie about your status or your identity. This can get you into further trouble.
2. Get a Lawyer
In addition to the right to remain silent, you also have the right to an attorney—even without U.S. citizenship. You can speak with your attorney before answering any questions or signing documents, and they can advise you on the best way to respond to certain questions. Additionally, everything you and your attorney discuss is, by law, confidential.
3. Avoid a Serious Conviction
This may seem obvious, but there are huge differences between an arrest, a conviction for a misdemeanor, and a conviction for a felony or aggravated felony. In the best-case scenario, your attorney will be able to get the charges dropped. If this is not possible, they may be able to reduce the charge to a misdemeanor, which has the smallest effects on your immigration status.
You will also need to be aware of the consequences of taking a plea bargain. A plea bargain may reduce your sentence, but it could negatively impact your immigration status or even trigger a removal proceeding. This is why hiring an attorney who practices immigration law is critical—they will have all the insights you need to make the best possible decisions.
If you hire a regular criminal defense attorney, and they advise you to accept a plea bargain without informing you of the consequences it may have on your immigration status, you may still have options, such as filing a grievance against that attorney.
4. Develop a Deportation Defense Plan
If you are convicted of a serious crime that triggers a removal proceeding, you will need a solid deportation defense plan. Deportation is not always inevitable, even for immigrants with criminal records. You may, for example, be able to obtain a waiver, which forgives your criminal history and allows you to continue living in the United States.
Let Our Experienced Attorney Handle Your Case
Navigating the criminal justice system as an immigrant can be an extraordinary challenge with very high stakes. At The Law Office of Yifei He, PLLC, our attorney has personal experience with the immigration system, and he understands the constant stress and anxiety you may feel in regards to protecting your status. Crimmigration is a complex area of law, and Attorney Yifei He is committed to preserving your rights and helping you stay safe in the United States.