Friday, February 26, 2010
Subtle Differences Between Inadmissibility and Deportability Can Have Major Consequences
Inadmissibility refers to the rules that apply to a person attempting to enter the United States, or to a person currently in the United States after entering illegally. Deportability refers to the rules that apply to a person that is currently in the United States after being lawfully admitted into the country.
Many of the grounds of inadmissibility are similar to the grounds of deportability. However, they are not exactly the same – some of the most important distinctions are based on how the rules consider a person’s criminal behavior. Certain crimes, such as crimes involving moral turpitude, can render a person inadmissible and deportable. The term, “crimes involving moral turpitude,” has been defined as conduct that shocks the public conscience as being inherently base, vile, or depraved, and contrary to the accepted rules of morality and the duties owed between persons or to society in general. Such crimes include theft, fraud, arson and blackmail.
Other crimes, known as aggravated felonies, can also render a person deportable. The crimes that constitute aggravated felonies are defined in the law, and include such crimes as murder, rape and fraud involving $1,000 or more. The first major distinction is that an aggravated felony may not render a person inadmissible. However, many aggravated felonies also happen to fall within the definition of a crime involving moral turpitude, and may render a person inadmissible for that reason.
Another distinction between the rules of inadmissibility and deportability is whether a person must have been convicted of a crime in order for the rules to apply. Generally speaking, for a person to be deportable for a crime involving moral turpitude or an aggravated felony, that person must have been convicted of the crime in question. However, even if a person has never been convicted of a crime, if that person has committed an act which would amount to a crime involving moral turpitude, that person could be rendered inadmissible to the United States.
Whether a crime that falls within the definition of a crime involving moral turpitude is so minor that it may be ignored is another big difference between the rules of inadmissibility and deportability. For example, if a person has committed one act that would be considered a crime that would not be punishable in excess of one year, and that person has been sentenced to six months or less, this is considered a “petty offense,” and will not render a person inadmissible.
However, when a person is present in the United States legally, and that person has convicted of a single crime involving moral turpitude within five years of being admitted to the United States, in order for that conviction to be ignored for deportation purposes, the crime must have a maximum punishment of less than one year in jail.
Generally, the rules governing the admissibility of a person into the United States are more stringent than those governing the deportation of someone legally in the United States. However, the exceptions relating to crimes of moral turpitude can result in confusing outcomes. For example, in Virginia, Class 1 misdemeanors are punishable by up to one year in jail. Under the rules governing admissibility, a person admitting to a criminal act that equates to a Class 1 misdemeanor may qualify for the petty offense exception if the sentencing guideline provides for sentences less than one year.
However, a person convicted of the same Class 1 misdemeanor will be deportable, regardless of the actual sentence, so long as the crime occurred within five years of admission into the United States. In addition, a conviction record for crimes of moral turpitude can have a major impact on whether a person can travel outside of the United States.
For example, if a permanent resident is convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude punishable by more than a year in jail, but the act was committed more than five years after being admitted to the United States, the permanent resident is not deportable. However, if that same person takes a trip overseas and attempts to re-enter the United States, that person will be deemed inadmissible. Further, the law provides that when a person who is in removal proceedings has committed a crime involving moral turpitude, that person is subject to mandatory detention during the pendency of the removal proceedings.
Thus, the same crime, which may have no immigration consequences for a permanent resident who does not travel overseas, can place the same person in detention and subject that person to removal proceedings if the permanent resident leaves the United States and attempts to come back.
Because of the subtle differences between the grounds of inadmissibility and the grounds of deportability, certain acts can result in vastly different outcomes. A permanent resident with a criminal record, or facing a criminal conviction, would be wise to seek advice from an attorney familiar with immigration law to learn of the possible immigration consequences that could result from a conviction.