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You’ve probably heard of the term “Crimmigration” before and wondered what it refers to. Although it is not a new concept, it is something that has become more relevant in recent years. In this article we will see everything related to the subject.

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What Is Crimmigration?

The term “Crimmigration” comes from the intersection between criminal defense and immigration law. It’s basically where criminal law and immigration law meet.

Until 1980, American citizens and non-citizens were punished equally, regardless of their citizenship status. Nowadays this has changed:

  • If an American citizen is convicted of a crime, they can be punished by jail time, fines, and other penalties. 
  • If an individual who is not a citizen is guilty of a crime, his future in the United States is in jeopardy. In addition, to obtaining criminal penalties. 

Traditionally, criminal cases were the stage for state or local prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges, while immigration cases were handled by the immigration court system. 

Nowadays, those who are not citizens can face criminal charges that can lead to removal and / or deportation proceedings. Even if deportation from the US can be avoided, the offender will be left with a criminal record.

cancellation of removal

If you cancel a removal procedure due to a situation that involves crimmigration issues, you will have a criminal record that could jeopardize your immigration processes. On our website, you will find detailed articles referring to different immigration reliefs and processes you might want to check, among these:

Crimmigration In The United States

In the book “Crimmigration Law” written by the law professor from the Ohio State University, César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández, it is pointed out that criminal and immigration laws have merged to the detriment of immigration rights.

In the interview that he gave to NBC News, it is appreciated that it is not a coincidence that immigration law is criminalized in the United States. The country closed legal avenues for immigrants to enter legally. This can be seen in that:

  • In the United States, there are immigrants who come from Canada, Australia and Western Europe, that enter legally but stay longer with their visas
  • When you look at ICE statistics, individuals who are detained, or who stay longer than necessary, are largely Latin American.

Previously, the US government had a policy of not detaining an immigrant, except in unusual circumstances on or near the Mexican border. Immigration law has become increasingly tougher on a migrant’s criminal record. This is to decide whether a person is imprisoned or deported.

Data From the past Too Present nowadays

Figures from previous years showed that approximately:

  • Between 1892 and 1984, around 14,000 people were barred from the United States for a criminal conviction.
  • Between 1908 and 1980, around 56,000 people were deported.

These figures, despite spanning nearly a century, pale in comparison to today’s figures. In 2013, ICE reported that 260,000 people were deported for criminal records. 

what is crimmigration in the united states

According to Professor García Hernandez, there were 3 forces at play that drove these migration figures:

  • People deported for having committed a crime.
  • Congress increased immigration officers detention powers.
  • The federal government, and some of the states, came to depend on a criminal justice model to control immigration.

He noted that if people knew how immigration courts work in the US, they could possibly offend their notions of justice. However, the professor remains optimistic about the possibilities of improving the US immigration system. He assures that he sees an opportunity to make the American legal system a better version of itself.

However, it is true that the most recent statistics from ICE show fewer immigration arrests within the US. In FY 2020 ICE ERO conducted 185,884 removals, a 30% decrease from FY 2019.

A decrease that primarily resulted from a sharp decline in CBP apprehensions at the Southwest Border due to the use of authority under 42 U.S.C. §§ 265 and 268 in order to expel noncitizens from the United States to prevent the introduction of COVID19. Still, 92% of removals had criminal convictions or pending criminal charges.

You can read the full interview with its author here and check his blog dedicated to the subject.

The legal concept of Crimmigration in the U. S.

I started out my legal career as a criminal defense attorney. I represented folks in municipal court for making too much noise at a Fourth of July backyard barbeque, and in Superior Court for representing a man accused of strangling to death his elderly neighbor after she baked cookies for him. I appeared before the New Jersey Appellate court and argued before the New Jersey Supreme Court. But I never imagined my criminal law background would require that I learn immigration law.

Section written by Lynne D. Feldman, MA, JD

Criminal and immigration law have now become so deeply intertwined that migrants often are confused as to any distinction between the two, and don’t realize that their defense attorney may not be well versed in immigration law, or vice versa. 

But if you’ve paid the slightest attention to the news of late, you may be aware that today we lock up 400,000 migrants per year from babies to the elderly. Your immigration case is often determined by the outcome of a separate or past criminal proceeding, and your criminal case is routinely affected by your immigration status. That is crimmigration!

This meshing of two separate bodies of law is not actually a new development; but it has grown exponentially to the point that it is difficult to see daylight between the two areas.

A bit of history related to Crimmigration

In the mid-1980s Congress and Reagan officials became concerned about the migration of over 125,000 Cuban and 15,000 Haitian refugees. Both groups were seen as menacing, with Cubans derided as Communists and Haitians as HIV-infected dregs. More recent Central American migration took off as people fled civil wars, and were promptly labeled as Communist infiltrators and drug couriers.

After 9/11, we feared the influx of foreign Middle-Eastern terrorists flooding in through our Southern border, and others bringing drugs to fuel our growing addition crisis.

By 2010, all criminal defense attorneys have been constitutionally obligated to tell our clients who might not be United States citizens that a conviction might lead to deportation. Indeed, many areas of your immigration status might result in your confinement.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division under the Department of Homeland security (DHS) runs an entire prison-industrial complex of over 600 prisons housing over 300,000 people annually. Most are there for being charged with committing “immigration crimes”: unauthorized entry and unauthorized re-entry. And once convicted, more than 20,000 people are sent to the Bureau of Prisons.

consequences of entering a guilty plea

crimes leading to deportation

Because of the seriousness of possible incarceration, the United States Supreme Court has directed all attorneys to inform their foreign national clients of consequences of entering a guilty plea, even in municipal courts.

The 6th Amendment’s right to counsel now includes immigration issues. For those who pled guilty to a simple offense in municipal court and are now housed in pre-deportation confinement, we are seeing a dramatic increase in the number of post-conviction relief petitions (PCRs) and motions to withdraw (MTW) their guilty pleas.

Criminal Offenses That May Lead To Deportation

In the past, facing minor or non-violent criminal charges rarely had an impact on immigration processes. In recent years, US government agencies took advantage of these crimes to reduce immigration.

In 2018, ICE explained that they will continue with all procedures to deport any immigrant who is convicted of a criminal offense or who has an unsolved crime case. However, It is true that the new Biden administration poses a new scenario much more open to immigration and integration.

waiver of inadmissibility

In most immigration cases, you may become eligible to apply for an immigration waiver of inadmissibility to the United States.

If convicted of a felony, it will be grounds for deportation from the country. Historically, the following crimes have been grounds for deportation:

  • Murder.
  • Aggravated assault.
  • Domestic abuse.
  • Child abuse.
  • Robbery or theft.
  • Kidnapping.
  • Human smuggling and trafficking.

If you have been a victim of human trafficking or other crimes, visit our section regarding the T visa and the U visa.

People who are legal permanent residents (holders of a Green Card) can still be removed from the country if they have committed any of these crimes.

Smaller Criminal Offenses Are Also Heavily Punished

Smaller criminal offenses can also lead to deportation from the country, including:

  • Possession of drugs.
  • Academic fraud.
  • Domestic violence
  • Criminal recklessness.
  • Theft and other misdemeanors.
  • DUI / DWI.
  • Public intoxication.

If you are found guilty and deported, you could be separated from family members, lose your job, and become inadmissible to reenter the United States.

u. s family based immigration

One of our sections focuses on petitioning to bring family members to the United States, where you can learn how to petition for family members. You may also be interested in knowing the requirements to legally enter the United States and even if there is an option to find a job while being undocumented.

New Jersey Law Firm specialized In Cases Involving Crimmigration

Latina attorney Carolina T. Curbelo is the daughter of Cuban refugees and grew up hearing stories from her parents and grandparents who fled political persecution from Fidel Castro’s Cuba. With over 10 years of professional experience, Carolina will study and tell you the best options available for your particular scenario.

If you are not a US citizen, before your friend, relative, or you consider a guilty plea in any court, contact Curbelo Law firm in Ridgewood and Newark, NJ and get legal advice from our attorneys. This is the first of a series on crimmigration.

In this way you will obtain legal advice in both English and Spanish from our Crimmigration specialists.