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Immigrants face deportation risk after criminal charges

When Pennsylvania residents think about penalties for criminal actions, they often think about jail time, fines and probation. However, there are many other long-term consequences of arrests and criminal charges that may have even more severe negative effects on a person's life. This is especially true for people who may be excluded from housing or employment options because of a criminal conviction or for immigrants who face deportation if convicted of certain crimes.

A recent report focusing on the deportations carried out under the Obama administration has revealed that many immigrants are finding themselves in immigration proceedings and being deported as a result of being convicted of only minor offenses, including traffic violations. The findings of this report are in contrast to the President's stated emphasis on identifying and removing the most dangerous criminal offenders. The report notes that since 2009, only 20 percent of the immigrants deported have been convicted of serious crimes like drug trafficking.

The interplay between criminal charges and current immigration law is a serious issue of concern for immigrants, both documented and undocumented. Although there are protections against double jeopardy for citizen criminal offenders, there is no such protection against the double jeopardy that faces many immigrants. First, these individuals are punished for the criminal offense. Afterwards, however, they may face the immigration consequences stemming from the conviction. If the result is deportation or the loss of the ability to remain in the country legally, these consequences, which are deemed civil in nature, can be far worse than any criminal penalty.

When a Pennsylvania immigrant is accused of a crime, it is critical to get advice related to the potential immigration consequences that may result before pleading guilty or accepting any plea deal. Some resolutions-like a plea deal-that may be a good deal for a citizen can be disastrous for an immigrant if the crime is one that makes the immigrant inadmissible or removable.

Source: The Raw Story, "Report: 80 percent of U.S. deportations involve minor offenses," Agence France-Presse, April 7, 2014

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