For those not born in the US, being accused of a crime isn’t just scary because you could face large fines, probation, and time in either jail or prison, but you could even be deported to your native country. For crimes like drunk driving, the chances of that happening are typically pretty slim, but for other crimes like domestic violence, the immigration consequences can be very serious and may not just be limited to deportation. In fact, some people convicted of domestic violence may be ineligible to ever obtain citizenship, a green card, or even re-enter the country legally ever again. But the good news is that those who have been victimized by domestic violence need not worry about coming forward against their accuser because the law typically protects them both from the person doing them harm and from deportation.
Can You Be Deported for Domestic Violence?
The short answer is yes. You can absolutely be ejected from the country if you are convicted for domestic violence. These crimes can include:
- A violent crime against a partner or ex
- Child abuse
- Child neglect
- Child abandonment
- Violating a domestic violence restraining order
A skilled criminal defense attorney may be able to help anyone accused of these criminal charges who is concerned about his or her immigration status to fight the charges or negotiate a plea bargain. That being said, it is critical anyone concerned about how a domestic violence charge might affect their immigration status ensure their attorneys are familiar enough with the law to ensure they do not accidentally agree to a plea bargain that still has problematic immigration consequences, such as those offenses considered to be charges of moral turpitude. Some of the most common misdemeanor criminal charges used in these types of plea bargains that do not have immigration consequences under the law include trespassing, false imprisonment, simple battery, simple assault or misdemeanor vandalism.
While it is important to work with a defense attorney to fight the charges, it is critical people also seek an immigration lawyer’s advice when they are non-citizen’s facing any crime -but especially for domestic violence.
What About Felony Convictions?
Naturally, some charges are harder to fight or negotiate down to a misdemeanor that does not have immigration consequences. In fact, any crime considered to be a crime of moral turpitude or an aggravated felony carries a penalty of mandatory deportation (domestic violence convictions only carry an optional deportation for those in the country legally) and inadmissibility in the future. This will prohibits the person convicted of the crime from ever being granted citizenship, qualifying for a green card or even being able to reenter the country legally.
Domestic violence crimes that the law defines as moral turpitude include:
- Felony false imprisonment
- Felony child abuse
- Sexual battery
- Child pornography
- Child molestation
If you have been deemed inadmissible and are caught attempting to reenter the country illegally or are caught being in the country illegally, you can be sentenced to 20 years in prison. That is why it is so important that anyone whose domestic violence case involves one of these criminal charges immediately call their lawyer as soon as possible.
Is Deportation Automatic After a Domestic Violence Conviction?
It depends on your situation. If you are a lawful resident, meaning you possess a green card or visa, you have the right to a hearing before a judge prior to deportation and you even have the opportunity to appeal the ruling of the judge to the Board of Immigration Appeals. You can hire immigration attorneys to help represent you at these types of hearings in order to increase your chances of success in these complicated legal matters.
If you are an undocumented immigrant, ICE can deport you from the country without a hearing.
Even With Reduced Charges, Deportation is Still Possible
California does not automatically deport those who are in the country illegally and does not report arrests to United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement. But arrests and convictions are considered matters of public record, meaning that if ICE is looking for a specific individual and discovers their current address or their location in a California jail facility, they may find that person, arrest them and deport them.
Those in the country on a valid visa, green card or who have been naturalized are not subject to this potential consequence.
Can You Be Deported for Reporting Domestic Violence?
While there are many serious immigration consequences for those convicted of domestic violence, the law actively attempts to protect those who have been victimized by these acts so they can report their abusers. Non-citizens with a green card who are married to US citizens or lawful permanent residents can file a petition to remove the condition of legal residency that requires them to stay with their abuser.
Those without green cards may file a self-petition stating that they married their spouse in good faith and that being deported would cause serious hardship to themselves or their children. In order to qualify for this option, the victim must be married to a US citizen or lawful permanent resident (or was married to such a person in the last two years) who abuses them or their children, or the victim can be a child of an abusive US citizen or lawful permanent resident. Those who have their petition approved can obtain a work permit and apply for a green card.
Lastly, victims of violent crimes, including domestic violence or rape, may be eligible for a U-visa if they are helpful to law enforcement agents attempting to investigate or prosecute the person responsible. If this visa application is approved, the applicant will be granted a work permit that will remain valid for 4 years and after 3 years, the non-citizen will be eligible to apply for a green card.
If you have been accused of domestic violence and are not a native citizen, it is critical you contact a skilled criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your case. Failure to successfully fight the charges or obtain the right plea bargain could result in your family being torn apart and you being forced to return to your native country -possible with no option to ever return to the country legally. For more information, please contact Peter M. Liss at (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free initial consultation.