A “green card” is a lawful permanent resident card. Lawful permanent residents may live in the United States permanently, renewing their cards every 10 years. However, lawful permanent resident status can be taken away. There are many reasons why this might happen. This blog post covers one of the most common reasons: criminal history.
Criminal convictions are the single biggest reason that a green card can be taken away. If a lawful permanent resident is convicted of certain crimes, then the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will begin a case in Immigration Court for the purpose of asking the Immigration Judge to take away the individual’s permanent resident status and order him deported from the United States.
There is a long list of crimes that could trigger deportation proceedings against a permanent resident. But one of the most common is drug crimes. All controlled substance offenses except a single conviction for possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana will place a permanent resident in danger of losing his status. Similarly, most convictions for a firearms offense will have the same effect.
Additionally, there is a category of crimes called “crimes involving moral turpitude” that may also place a permanent resident in danger of losing his green card. Common crimes of moral turpitude include theft, fraud, and some violent offenses such as assault, but these are certainly not the only crimes that could qualify. Similarly, crimes of domestic violence can lead to deportation proceedings against a permanent resident.
And finally, there is a category of crimes called “aggregated felonies”. Common aggravated felonies include drug trafficking, murder, rape, sexual abuse of a child and child pornography, and some serious theft offenses, crimes of violence, and fraud offenses. If a lawful permanent resident has been convicted of an aggravated felony, he is likely to be ineligible to stay in the United States. If a lawful permanent resident has been convicted of less serious crimes, he may be eligible for what’s called cancellation of removal, which our next blog post will cover.
So what should a lawful permanent resident who is charged with a crime do? Consult with an immigration attorney before pleading guilty to a crime. At our law office, we often work hand in hand with criminal defense attorneys to help advise a client on how to avoid being convicted of a crime that could cause the client to be deported from the United States.