If an immigrant commits a crime in the United States, they are often times precluded from obtaining citizenship, permanent residence status, or even the ability to remain in the U.S. at all. Even when it is within the discretion of a judge or an officer to grant an application and allow a person to remain here, they can deny that request in an instant.
On the other hand, an immigrant is sometimes fortunate enough to be treated similar to a U.S. citizen who commits a crime. That was the case this last week when an immigrant we represented committed two crimes and was convicted of two misdemeanors. She was a lawful permanent resident at the time and applied for Cancellation of Removal for Lawful Permanent Residents during her immigration court removal proceedings.
This was a case where the justice system properly penalized an immigrant, similar to that of a citizen. Granted, she spent more time in prison than she should have for the crimes she was convicted of, but she was eventually forgiven for a few reasons. She fulfilled the three main purposes of a prison sentence: 1) paying her debt to society, 2) rehabilitation, and 3) deterrence from committing future crimes. If an immigrant pays the same price that any U.S. citizen would, then why also deport a person as further punishment? Chances are, she has been fully rehabilitated and this has now deterred her from committing any future crimes. Isn’t that enough? Is it always necessary to deport an immigrant simply because it is permissible under the immigration laws? Or is it more in line with our democracy, that all people should be given a second chance to prove themselves?