Industries are full of jargon and made-up words that describe certain people, places, and things. The legal industry is no different. Crimmigration is one recent word to come out of the offices of criminal defense lawyers, especially those who also specialize in immigration law. You won’t find crimmigration in the dictionary, but you can think of it as the body law that deals with the impact specific crimes have on a non-U.S. citizen’s immigration status.

How Exactly Do Crime and Immigration Intersect for Non-citizens?

The intersection of crime and immigration specifically occurs because non-citizens convicted of crimes face harsh consequences with regard to immigration status. These penalties are in addition to any fines or jail time imposed by the court. Although the criminal justice system separates crimes by felonies, misdemeanors, and other petty crimes, the separation is not as clear for non-citizens. Even minor crimes, such as shoplifting, can result in mandatory removal, the legal word for deportation.

Strict Crimmigration Policies Are on the Rise in the U.S.

Non-U.S. citizens with and without green cards need to be concerned about the recent increase in policies that target those who have committed crimes, even minor ones. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) reported that their officers arrested more than 140,000 non-citizens in 2019 and removed over 267,000, representing an increase from the previous year. More than 85 percent of those arrested by ICE had pending criminal charges or convictions. The increased removals show that crimmigration policies are on the rise, and the massive numbers suggest ICE is removing far more than violent criminals.

In fact, the anti-immigration rhetoric and policies coming from the Trump administration suggest that the federal government is pushing for removal. Mandatory deportation comes with any aggravated felony conviction, but in other cases, judges have discretion; A judge has the option to let someone stay in the United States or order their immediate removal. In these situations, the policy already exists, and many judges default to the strictest consequence—mandatory deportation.

What Are the Consequences of Crimmigration Policies?

Non-U.S. citizens who are convicted of a crime face a wide array of negative consequences that impact their immigration status. The exact impact depends on the type and severity of the charges, laws about mandatory deportation, immigration status, and the disposition of the court. Examples include:

  • Removal, which is the legal term for deportation, from the United States
  • The inability to re-enter the United States after leaving called inadmissibility
  • Denial of requests for asylum or hardship
  • Inability to apply for permanent resident status referred to as “getting a green card”
  • Inability to naturalize or become a U.S. citizen

Who Is at Risk for Consequences of Crimmigration Policies?

If you have a green card granting you permanent resident status in the United States, you might think you are safe from the consequences of crimmigration policies. It’s true that ICE targets undocumented non-citizens and those without permanent status for deportation and/or inadmissibility. Yet, the government can still force the removal of those with green cards when they commit a crime. Any immigrant who plead guilty or gets convicted of an aggravated felony faces deportation. An aggravated felony is a special class of criminal offenses that refer to serious crimes. Other convictions, arrests, and minor offenses also put immigrants at risk for deportation, typically at the discretion of a judge.

The Criminal Legal Process for Immigrants

When an immigrant gets arrested and charged with a crime, they must go through the same process as citizens, but their immigrant status comes into play during court proceedings. The broad steps of the crimmigration process for immigrants include:

  • Law enforcement arrests a person and takes them to Central Lock-up in New Orleans. Most cities have some sort of central facility, but the exact location varies depending on where you live.
  • Law enforcement books, fingerprints, and processes the arrest at Central Lock-up.
  • The detained immigrant waits to get in front of a criminal judge for an arraignment, where the judge decides whether to release the defendant, release the defendant on bail, or order them to remain in jail to await their trial.
  • The defense and prosecution prepare their cases for trial. The prosecution runs a criminal background check on the immigrant as well as researching the status of the person in terms of citizenship and immigration.
  • The prosecution notifies the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) of the arrest but might wait to inform them after a conviction.
  • The trial date arrives and the court renders a verdict for the defendant.

An arrest is unlikely to result in negative immigration consequences on its own; a conviction must occur. Yet, as soon as you are arrested for a crime, you are on the radar of local law enforcement, making it likely you will be arrested again if you do not strictly adhere to laws. Unfortunately, some law enforcement might specifically target you and find a way to arrest you for a crime.

Historically, law enforcement and prosecutors only had the authority to report arrests and charges for major crimes to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The law is unclear under the Trump administration and anti-immigrant sentiments of those in positions of power typically result in reports to ICE for the most minor arrests.

Legal Representation Is Your Best Chance to Avoid Consequences of Crimmigration Policies

If you’ve been arrested and charged with a crime and you are not a U.S. citizen, you have a lot to lose because of crimmigration policies. Your best chance of avoiding deportation and other negative immigration consequences is to hire an experienced crimmigration attorney who can help fight your charges and advocate for you during the criminal process. The skilled legal team at Stephenson, Chávarri & Dawson have more than 50 years of combined experience representing non-citizens who face negative immigration consequences as a result of being charged or convicted of a crime. Contact us today online or at 504-523-6496 to discuss your situation, your crimmigration legal needs, and the best path forward for your circumstances.

In late June 2020, President Donald Trump signed an executive order freezing new visas for foreign workers until the end of 2020. President Trump’s order stems from the culture of protectionism that surrounds his administration; he cited the order as a way to preserve American jobs when unemployment is high as a result of the arrival of COVID-19. The executive order also continues the freeze on green cards for new immigrants through December 31, 2020. We provide this guide so you know exactly which visas are impacted by President Trump’s executive order and the consequences you might face as a result.

Which Visas Did President Trump Freeze with His Executive Order?

The United States grants a variety of different visas for those who come to the country. President Trump froze the issuance of five different types of visas related to foreign workers in the United States. They are:

  • H1-B visas are temporary worker visas issued to those who work in specialty occupations. According to the State Department, those who receive H1-B visas must have a college degree or equivalent and the group includes fashion models, those who work in government-to-government research and development, and special Department of Defense projects.
  • H2-B visas are general temporary worker visas for those who do not work in agriculture.
  • H-4 visas are non-immigrant visas issued to the spouses and dependents of those who hold H visas, including H1-B and H2-B visas.
  • J visas are a broad class of visitor visas that are issued to those who come to the United States for an exchange program. Examples of those who receive J visas are camp counselors, doctors, interns, students, teachers, and official government visitors.
  • L visas are issued to those who work as managers or executives and worked for the same employer abroad for one year within the three previous years.

President Trump’s executive order did provide exemptions for healthcare workers and scientists who treat and research COVID-19, college professors, and those working in food-related industries.

What Impact Does Freezing Green Cards and Visas Have on Foreigners?

Those who receive temporary work visas aspire to eventually get a green card, so they do not have to constantly live in limbo, wondering whether they will get the visa they need to stay in the United States. Those who had high hopes of receiving a green card by the end of the year also must cope with being in limbo. The exact impact of the freeze varies based on the type of visa and the authorized amount of time a non-immigrant foreign worker has in the United States. Foreign workers, their families, and members of exchange face the following consequences:

Leaving the United States

A visa gives a non-immigrant worker the right to apply for entry into the United States. Once the United States permits a foreigner entry, they also receive a duration of status that states how long they can stay in the country, which can vary from a few months to a few years. Keep in mind that your status is different from your visa expiration date. If your visa has expired or will expire before the end of 2020, you will not automatically need to leave the country as long as your status is still valid. However, once your status changes, you have two months to leave the United States.

Potential Job Loss

The freeze on visas puts some U.S. companies at risk. Some industries need foreign workers because workers in the United States cannot or will not fill the roles they need. Restrictions on hiring can spell disaster and potentially put some organizations out of business. Non-immigrant workers in the U.S. who lose their jobs have a status change, which requires them to quickly find another job or leave the country.

Increased Economic Activity and Jobs Abroad

Restricting candidates for U.S. companies and multinational companies who do business in the United States forces them to move jobs outside the U.S. Depending on what part of the world a worker comes from and which other countries they might find eligibility to work, the opportunity for jobs outside the United States might increase. Yet, sending jobs overseas reduces the jobs available for citizens, green card holders, and visa holders in the U.S. This has the potential to devastate households. During hard times, U.S. citizens can get government assistance for food and seek help from other programs. Visa holders are ineligible and many permanent residents have to wait for five years for assistance.

Loss of Educational Opportunities

The U.S. State Department states that those who experience different cultures through educational and cultural exchanges gain a deeper understanding of themselves as others. Additionally, exchange programs deepen knowledge about foreign cultures and strengthen relationships with those from other countries. Freezing J visas until the end of 2020 prevents exchange participants from reaping these benefits. Whether visiting the U.S. as an exchange student, teaching a foreign language to U.S. students or campers, or visiting the U.S. as part of a professional exchange program, most of these programs won’t be able to operate until after 2020.

Economic Uncertainty in Country of Origin

Non-immigrant workers forced to return to their country of origin as a result of the freeze on green cards and visas potentially face economic uncertainty. While the freeze might push certain jobs out of the United States, it doesn’t guarantee that those who return home will have a job waiting for them. Additionally, COVID-19 has negatively impacted the global economy, not only the U.S. economy. Economic uncertainty for foreign workers when they return home translates into potential struggles to meet basic needs such as food, shelter, and clothing.

Get the Legal Help You Need to Navigate the Immigration Legal System

Coping with changes in laws, executive orders, and other issues related to immigration and your status in the United States can overwhelm you. The skilled attorneys Stephenson, Chávarri & Dawson have been helping foreign workers and their families navigate the U.S. Immigration Legal System for decades. We’re here to help you find the best strategy to get the results you need. Contact us today online or at 504-523-6496 to discuss your immigration status and learn more about how the recent executive order freezing visas impacts you and your family.

Foreign nationals, permanent residents, and other classes of immigrants in the United States face harsh penalties if convicted of drug charges. The U.S. is tough on drugs, and even tougher when non-U.S. citizens are involved. We have developed this guide to provide an overview of the immigration-related consequences you face with a drug conviction, the consequences of specific types of drug charges, and how to fight deportation based on drug charges.

Potential Immigration-related Consequences of a Drug Conviction

The consequences you might face for a drug conviction depend on your legal status as a non-U.S. citizen and your specific drug-related crime. They include:

  • Mandatory deportation
  • Possible deportation, and/or
  • Inadmissibility to the United States

When courts deem non-citizens inadmissible after a drug conviction, they have the following restrictions:

  • They cannot legally re-enter the United States after they leave.
  • They can never become a U.S. Citizen.
  • They can never apply for a Green Card, a.k.a. permanent resident status.
  • They can never apply to adjust their status from illegal to legal.

If a non-citizen came to the United States legally, courts typically do not automatically deport him or her after a drug conviction. Instead, courts rule them inadmissible. In practice, it has the same impact because if the non-citizen ever leaves the country, he or she cannot return.

Controlled Substances that Lead to Deportation

Federal law categorizes drugs as controlled substances that fall into one of five groups, referred to as schedules. Each schedule contains a variety of drugs—illegal and legal. Everything from marijuana to heroin to crystal meth and in between is listed on one of the schedules. You will also find legal drugs that doctors prescribe such as painkillers, on the schedules. The government must prove that your drug charges involved one of the controlled substances on the federal schedules for you to suffer mandatory deportation or inadmissibility.

Specific Drug Crimes that Lead to Deportation

The extent of your drug charges influences the likelihood of possible or mandatory removal from the United States. Drug abusers, drug addicts, and any crime involving a controlled substance can possibly result in deportation. For example, less than 30 grams of marijuana for personal use typically does not result in deportation after the first offense.

Mandatory Removal

If a drug conviction includes any of the following circumstances, you face mandatory deportation as well as inadmissibility to the United States:

  • You are charged with an aggravated felony. The circumstances that make a charge aggravated vary. Examples include drug crimes that include the use of a deadly weapon or repeated offenses. An aggravated felony drug conviction also prohibits you from asylum relief, cancellation of removal, or the ability to reapply for entry based on hardship.
  • You have been convicted of two or more crimes with combined prison sentences over five years.
  • You are charged with a drug crime involving moral turpitude that you committed within five years of your arrival in the United States that carries a minimum one-year sentence. Moral turpitude is the notion that a crime is morally wrong and doesn’t live up to social standards. Drug possession charges typically are not crimes involving moral turpitude, but many other drug-related crimes are.

Deportation for the Possession and Personal Use of Drugs

The United States doesn’t usually deport drug addicts and those who abuse drugs, but you have a better chance of avoiding deportation if you complete a drug treatment program. Louisiana is one of the states that has a pre-trial diversion program. These programs require those with drug charges to complete a substance abuse program prior to going in front of a judge. The prosecutor drops the charges after successfully completing the program. However, once you are found guilty or accept a plea deal for a drug charge, you risk deportation even if you’ve completed a substance abuse treatment program.

The simple possession of a small amount of drugs is not an aggravated felony punished by more than a year of jail time, so you will avoid mandatory deportation. The exception to this rule is Rohypnol, commonly called the date rape drug. In other cases, judges have discretion on whether to deport you. Each case is different and each judge is different, making it necessary to consult with a lawyer as soon as possible if you are a non-U.S. citizen who has been charged with possession of a controlled substance.

Possessing drug paraphernalia also does not typically result in deportation. Prosecutors need to prove that the paraphernalia is connected to specific drugs you had in possession.

Impact of a Vacated, Expunged, or Pardoned Drug Conviction

If you are fortunate enough to have your drug conviction vacated or expunged from your permanent record, it removes the penalties that come with the conviction; however, it does not remove the consequences you face for immigration status. The law makes an exception to this rule if your Constitutional Rights were violated during the legal process. A full pardon from Louisiana’s governor or the governor in the state where you reside is the only way to reverse removal and/or inadmissibility.

How a Lawyer Can Help You Fight Deportation After Drug Charges

Experienced immigration attorneys can help you fight deportation after you’ve been charged or convicted with a drug-related crime. Some examples of strategies they might employ include:

  • Fight to get the charges dropped
  • Fight to suppress damning evidence
  • Fight to get the judge to dismiss charges
  • Appealing a conviction
  • Negotiating a plea to a lower charge that has fewer immigration consequences
  • Fight to dismiss the removal order in U.S. immigration court
  • Appeal a removal order to the Board of Immigration Appeals

Contact an Experienced Immigration Attorney After Drug Charges

If you’ve been convicted of drug-related charges, you face harsh consequences that can include deportation. Making a plea deal is a dangerous proposition if you want to stay in the United States. For the best chances of avoiding removal, you need to contact an experienced immigration attorney who can guide advocate for you and guide you through the criminal legal process. The skilled attorneys Stephenson, Chávarri & Dawson have been advocating for non-U.S. citizens facing deportation for decades. Contact us today online or at 504-523-6496 to discuss your drug charges and learn the best course of action for your individual circumstances.

If you’ve spent any time in the United States as a non-citizen, you’ve likely heard people making comments that non-citizens do not have rights in this country. That simply is not true. As a foreign national in the United States, you have many of the same rights U.S. citizens do when you are within the nation’s borders. Also, know that the U.S. government cannot suspend Constitutional rights, even during wartime.

The largest difference between you and someone who has citizenship is the danger of being deported if you violate the law. One common reason U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) rely on to deport non-citizens is their involvement in political activity. Historically, ICE has blurred the line between First Amendment rights such as freedom of speech, freedom to assemble, and freedom to petition the government with political activity. In many cases, ICE uses the broad category of “political activity” to target non-citizens.

Protests erupted in hundreds of cities and towns across the United States and the world after police officers in Minneapolis killed an unarmed African-American man when one of the officers kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes. These protests have provided an opportunity for ICE to target non-citizens for deportation.

When law enforcement arrests protesters, they turn non-citizens over to ICE for detainment and processing. Protests in New Orleans have remained fairly steady during June and July 2020. Unfortunately, many non-citizen residents in New Orleans have also been arrested and detained by ICE.

If you or any other non-U.S. citizen you know has been arrested in New Orleans or you get arrested in the future, you need to know your rights. Below, we provide a broad overview of your rights when arrested with some tips to help you protect those rights.

You Have the Right to Remain Silent

Any time you choose to speak to law enforcement when they approach you or arrest you, they can use your words against you at a later date. Even comments and discussions that seem innocent to you, can lead to you saying something that might hurt your case. The police might also use your comments to argue you gave consent to a search during a traffic stop or if they came to your home.

It’s in your best interest to stay silent. You can respond to questions with any of the following comments:

  • “I choose to remain silent.”
  • “I want to speak to my attorney.”
  • “You do not have my consent to search my home/vehicle/purse/backpack.”

Remember, New Orleans police and ICE can ask you any questions they want, but you do not have to answer any of them.

Cops Can Only Search You For Weapons

If New Orleans Police arrest you, they have the right to search your body or frisk you for dangerous weapons. They do not have the right to touch your body or search for other things. However, if they feel something illegal and uncover it during a body search, they will use it against you.

You Do Not Have to Sign a Rights Card When Detained

When police officers arrest U.S. citizens, they must read them their Miranda Rights, which include:

  • The right to remain silent
  • The right to know that anything you say can be held against you in a court of law
  • The right to an attorney
  • The right to have an attorney provided for you if you cannot afford one

These same rights are afforded to you under the U.S. Constitution; however, the police do not need to read them to you upon arrest. If New Orleans Police arrest you, they might request you to sign a “rights card,” to acknowledge they have informed you of your rights. You do not have to sign a rights card. If you chose to sign the card, make sure you indicate that you do not waive your rights and you will not speak without a lawyer present.

Non-Citizen Searches in New Orleans

The Fourth Amendment protects citizens from searches and arrests without warrants, but they are legal in some situations. For example, if law enforcement suspects ongoing criminal activity or makes a lawful arrest, they do not need a search warrant.  In any case, the following rights apply if NOPD tries to search your property without a warrant:

  • The police do not need a search warrant to search your car during a traffic stop, but they must have a reason, legally referred to as probable cause.
  • They must arrest you before they can look through bags, backpacks, or purses in your car without a warrant.
  • If you consent to the search, the cops can use anything they find against you in court.
  • You do not have to let ICE or New Orleans Police into your house if they do not have a warrant. Yet, it’s likely they will arrest you anyway if you try to stop a warrantless search. It’s in your best interest to continually repeat that you do not consent to the search and call a lawyer.
  • Whether the police have a warrant or not, never offer to open anything for them, but do not stand in their way either.

Confrontation vs. Detainment or Arrest

Police might approach you to ask you questions. In fact, they likely will act friendly to get you to speak. They know that once you choose to remain silent, they won’t get any more information from you if you have any to give. A confrontation or interaction with the police is different from arrest or detainment. Sometimes police let people think they are being detained, when in fact they are not. If you are unsure, ask if you are being detained. If they haven’t arrested you, you can leave.

Get the Legal Help You Need After ICE or NOPD Arrests You in New Orleans

The skilled legal team at Stephenson, Chávarri & Dawson have more than 50 years of combined experience serving non-U.S. citizens in New Orleans and throughout the country. If you or someone you love has been arrested in New Orleans, you are likely overwhelmed, scared, and unsure of the next steps. Contact us today online or call 504-523-6496 to discuss your legal needs and learn how we can help.

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