Any person who is not a U.S. citizen can be legally deported from the United States by the INS. Even if a person has been admitted to the U.S., he may still be forced by the INS to leave the country, through a procedure known as "removal" or "deportation." The basis for removal depends on whether the person is seeking admission or whether he is being removed after entering the country.
Someone who arrives without travel documents or with questionable documents and is not seeking asylum and is not a permanent resident or does not claim to be a U.S. citizen will likely be turned away without more than a quick interview with an immigration officer.
The most common reason a permanent resident, or green card holder, is removed from the United States is if they committed a serious crime. In recent years Congress has become increasingly concerned about non-citizens engaged in criminal activity. As a result, there are numerous provisions of the immigration law that increase the pressures on non-citizens who commit crimes. A person who is seeking permanent residence and has a criminal record will find it extremely difficult to obtain status here.
Similarly, a permanent resident or other non-citizen who commits a crime will likely face deportation. In addition, there are certain categories of crimes for which a person might have been convicted in the past that could place the non-citizen's right to remain here in serious jeopardy - even if he has been in the U.S. all of his life. These criminal provisions of the immigration laws require that the INS place its highest priority on the deportation of persons in state and federal prisons, especially for violent crimes.
The harshest penalties are reserved for a category of crimes called "aggravated felonies." With a few exceptions, it does not matter how or when the person may have been convicted of the aggravated felony. It also does not matter that the person pleaded guilty or nolo contendre (no contest) or went through an entire trial - the only thing the immigration judge is concerned about is whether the person was convicted of an aggravated felony.
Aggravated felonies include murder, rape, illicit trafficking in a controlled substance, money laundering in transactions in exceeding $10,000, firearms, explosives or arson charges, any crime of violence, whether against people or property, for which the term of imprisonment imposed is at least 1 year, theft offenses, "national defense" offenses (such as transmitting certain defense information), commercial bribery, counterfeiting, forgery, trafficking in vehicles with altered identification numbers, and perjury. If you were not convicted of an "aggravated" felony and do not present a danger to the community, your attorney might be able to seek asylum for you.
An experienced immigration lawyer should be consulted to determine the effect of any conviction on your right to stay in the country. There might also be a possibility of overturning the conviction or reducing the charge (perhaps because you pleaded guilty without being told that the conviction could lead to deportation).
Finally, if you are facing deportation and your matter is still pending before the Board of Immigration Appeals, it is possible to request and obtain a stay of deportation proceedings. This means once a stay is requested, the Board of Immigration Appeals must give your matter priority attention. While this might delay the proceedings from moving forward, it can also provide you with additional time to prepare your case and for your lawyer make the necessary legal motions.
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