Musings on Immigration

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The Three Reasons Your Client Will be Detained by Immigration in Georgia

Prior to this year, every undocumented immigrant or legal immigrant who was removable due to being undocumented, a criminal problem, or otherwise was detained upon any contact with immigration. However, there were and are over 11 million removable immigrants in the United States, and there was no priority for who we detained and deported first. That meant a single mom who was undocumented with five kids and no criminal history could be deported before an immigrant with felony convictions just by having contact with immigration first. Resources were stretched in all directions, and there wasn't enough of a focus on detaining dangerous criminal aliens.

The Enforcement Priority System

In response, on November 14, 2014, immigration announced the Civil Immigration Enforcement Priorities. Click here: Civil Immigration Enforcement Priorities. These priorities created concrete system regarding which immigrants, who are removable, will be detained upon contact with immigration and which will not. The list of priorities is long, but here are the basics:

First and highest priority: Removable immigrants with state and federal felony convictions.

Second priority: Removable immigrants with "significant misdemeanor" convictions which include: domestic violence, sexual abuse, burglary, unlawful possession of a firearm, drug trafficking, and, most importantly, DUI.

Third and lowest priority: Aliens with orders of removal from 2014 until the present.

These priority categories do not change or denote who is removable from the country, who is inadmissible, or who ultimately will be deported, but simply who immigration is going to dedicate funds and resources to detain. Other undocumented and removable immigrants not in these categories will, for now, not be detained by immigration and allowed to remain in the United States until a more comprehensive solution for the immigrant population is found.

How do the enforcement priorities interact with aggravated felonies and crimes involving moral turpitude (CIMTs)?

Immigrants with aggravated felonies, found in INA 101(a)(43), fall into Category 1 and will be detained upon contact with immigration.

Much more complicated are CIMTs. Significant misdemeanors overlap with CIMTs but they are not the same. Theft if a CIMT but misdemeanor theft with a sentence of incarceration of less than 90 days is not a significant misdemeanor. DUI is a significant misdemeanor but is not a CIMT. You will most likely need to contact an immigration attorney for immigrants with non-traffic misdemeanor convictions.

What if my client is in lawful status but has a crime that falls into one or more of these categories?

Note that some of your clients with legal permanent residency or other statuses may have convictions that fall into the categories, yet they are still not removable. This memo does not apply to them. Consult an immigration attorney first to see if your client is removable.

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