Grounds for Deportation: How Does a Criminal Record Affect Immigration Status?

deportation immigration criminal record

Regardless of immigration status, non-US citizens can be deported if they violate US laws. A judicial order of deportation can be requested and an immigrant may be deported for: (1) serious crimes of moral turpitude; (2) multiple criminal convictions; or (3) an aggravated felony, as discussed further below.

Serious Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude

Although not specifically defined, serious crimes involving moral turpitude generally refer to conduct that shocks the public conscience, and results in the offender being imprisoned for a year or more. Crimes of moral turpitude usually require willful criminal intent, and often include, but are not limited to, crimes against the person (e.g. murder, voluntary and involuntary manslaughter, kidnapping, aggravated assault, aggravated battery); crimes against property (e.g. arson, blackmail, forgery, robbery and attempted robbery, embezzlement, larceny, burglary, extortion, theft, fraud); sexual and family crimes (e.g., bigamy, prostitution, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, child abuse, incest, rape and statutory rape) and crimes against the authority of government (e.g. bribing a government official, counterfeiting, conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government, smuggling merchandise, impersonating a federal officer, harboring a fugitive, mail fraud, tax evasion).

Imprisonment or Multiple Convictions

An immigrant who has been convicted of two or more crimes involving moral turpitude at any time after entry can render the immigrant deportable, so long as the offenses do not arise out of a single scheme. Conceivably, two misdemeanor convictions for crimes involving moral turpitude not arising out of a single scheme can render an immigrant deportable under this provision.

Aggravated Felonies

In immigration laws, an aggravated felony is defined far more broadly than in most state’s criminal laws. The definition is found in Section 101(a)(43) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, or Section 1101(a)(43) of the U.S. Code. Some (but not all) of the aggravated felonies listed include crimes such as murder, rape, sexual abuse of a minor, illicit trafficking in a controlled substance, child pornography, fraud or deceit greater than $10,000, commercial bribery, counterfeiting, forgery, obstruction of justice, perjury, bribery of a witness, a crime of violence for which the term of imprisonment at least one year, burglary if the term of imprisonment was at least one year, and/or an attempt or conspiracy to commit an aggravated felony.


Some of the potential consequences of committing any of the criminal offenses outlined above include, but are not limited to: 1) deportation without a formal removal hearing before an Immigration Judge; 2) mandatory unreviewable detention following release from criminal custody (federal immigration authorities are required to detain any immigrant convicted of an “aggravated felony” upon his or her release from criminal custody); 3) ineligibility for asylum, cancellation of removal, certain waivers of inadmissibility, voluntary departure; 4) permanent inadmissibility following departure from the United States; and 5) enhanced penalties for illegally reentering the United States.

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Posted - 05/10/2016