Will a Conviction Have a Negative Impact on My Immigration Status?

FingerprintsWith all the talk in national politics about border walls and deportation, it is understandable that many people may be concerned about the stability of their immigration status in the United States. People are often brought into ICE custody not just for matters which involve the commission of a criminal offense, but for other concerns as well. If you or a family member are arrested and have a green card or are if you are arrested before you get a green card, you may have reason to be concerned about your status.

What Happens If I’m Arrested?

In and of itself, the mere act of being arrested is neither a basis for deportation nor should it be a source of extreme concern. Of course, when a non-citizen is arrested, the circumstances surrounding that arrest will undoubtedly be brought up during future immigration proceedings and an explanation of the events will likely be required.  In contrast, when making an application for a job or school in the normal course of events, questions that relate to a mere arrest are generally not permissible for citizens and non-citizens alike.

That is because an arrest at its most basic level is just one police officer’s opinion.  The police are neither the judge nor the jury. They arrest people based upon their suspicions, but it a criminal court of law that determines whether these suspicions were well-founded. Immigration proceedings are different in many ways, but being arrested is still just an allegation, not a conviction.

But What Happens If I’m Convicted?

FingerprintsBeing convicted of a criminal offense is usually an entirely different matter however as a conviction can seriously complicate a person’s immigration status, their ability to maintain permanent residency in the U.S. and could lead to deportation depending on the nature of the crime.

In Chicago courts as well as in every other Illinois court, a “conviction” has a very specific legal definition. A “supervision” or a “deferred prosecution” are not considered to be convictions for basic purposes. When a defendant has successfully completed a deferred prosecution or a supervision sentence, he or she can confidently answer questions in the negative when asked whether he or she was ever “convicted”.

But for purposes of immigration, the definition of what is a conviction is different. If someone has either plead guilty, been found guilty, ordered to perform some form of punishment, or merely admitted sufficient facts to support a finding of guilty, these things would also be considered a “conviction” for purposes of immigration.  

If convicted of a crime which USCIS defines as an act of moral turpitude or “against the accepted standards of the community”, it may render an applicant inadmissible for a green card or subject to other actions including deportation. In order to apply for citizenship, you must show good moral character. This means avoiding actions that lead Immigration officials to believe that you have engaged in immoral behavior, such as retail theft, drug offenses or sex offenses.  Other crimes are considered “aggravated felonies” under immigration law and may include obstruction, burglary, or theft.

Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney

The first thing you need to do if you are arrested is to contact a defense attorney who may put you in touch with a qualified immigration attorney as well. They may work together to craft a defense that will create as little damage as possible to your immigration status. The criminal defense attorneys at Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC are dedicated to ensuring that you are treated fairly by the Illinois criminal justice system. We are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Whether you are a U.S. citizen or an immigrant who is charged with a crime, contact us today at (312) 644-0444 for a free initial consultation.

Written by Mitchell S. Sexner Last Updated : May 26, 2023