There is even a word for it—Crimmigration. That is the word that immigration lawyers use to describe the relationship between Immigration and Criminal Law. Think that a shoplifting arrest is not that serious? Think again. Any theft is called a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude and is a deportable offense. Two shoplifting charges and convictions and you could be re-acquainting yourself with your hometown—in El Salvador—or wherever.
It cannot be overstated the importance of never getting into any criminal trouble. Unfortunately, the Police sometimes target minority groups and immigrants, and are much more likely to arrest an immigrant teen than a white US citizen teen.
What are common crimes that immigrants are arrested for? The same crimes that US Citizens are arrested for: DUIs, Domestic Violence and drug offenses. The difference is that US Citizens do not have to face the possibility of being removed from the United States and being sent to a foreign country that may not even be familiar to that person.
My first piece of advice is that as an immigrant, you cannot drink alcohol. Not a drop. Many crimes are a result of drinking alcohol. If you do not drink alcohol, you have an excellent chance to never having any contact with the police for your entire life.
Is this fair? It does not matter.
Second, be careful in picking your friends. This is true for our kids but also true for adults. If you have no legal status in the United States, and you are a passenger in a car where the driver is carrying drugs and the car is pulled over for a broken taillight or expired plates—chances are the police will arrest you also and charge you with possession of controlled substances. If a lot of drugs are found, you will be charged with trafficking. Either way, your days inside the United States may be numbered.
If you are arrested, do not automatically take your attorney’s advice and plead guilty. Most criminal defense attorneys do not understand the immigration consequences of a conviction and they might believe that they have gotten you a good deal because you will not spend time in jail, but beware, the same deal could end up getting you deported. This is true even though you might have a Green Card.
Find the best criminal defense attorney you can, and get a separate opinion from an immigration attorney who is familiar with the immigration consequences of this criminal conviction. It may cost you a few hundred dollars or more to get the opinion, but it might save you from deportation. Sometimes there are other criminal statutes that you can plead guilty to that will not trigger deportation. Get the right advice!