The term, “aggravated felony” is a harsh term, and carries severe penalties for immigrants who are convicted of such a crime. Unfortunately, what was once reserved for crimes of murder, federal drug trafficking, and trafficking of firearms and destructive devices is now being applied to crimes such as filing false tax returns, theft, and failure to appear in court. Though any crime is serious in nature, a conviction of an “aggravated felony” carries immediate and severe consequences such as deportation without a removal hearing, permanent inadmissibility, ineligibility for asylum, and ineligibility for voluntary departure under immigration laws. While these are appropriate consequences for violent crimes, they seem extreme for what is considered misdemeanor crimes such as simple battery.
Congress has added over 30 crimes to the list of “aggravated felonies” since the law was first enacted in 1988, many of which are considered to be misdemeanors or minor infractions in most states. Examples of some of the recently added crimes include fraud, perjury, bribery, forgery, and obstruction of justice. Under the current system, even if a legal immigrant was convicted of a crime that was not previously considered an “aggravated felony”, they become immediately subject to deportation under the current immigration laws if the crime is added to the list. What makes the current system even more unreasonable is that immigrants convicted of violent crimes that do not fall under the “aggravated felony” category are subject to immediate deportation, but are not subjected to the ineligibility and inadmissibility consequences that those convicted of “aggravated felony” receive.
Penalties for Aggravated Felonies Involve More Than Deportation
Convictions for “aggravated felonies” result in permanent and unforgiving outcomes for immigrants. Not only is the immigrant permanently deported for such a crime, but they are denied the protections afforded to others that consider special circumstances surrounding their case. Immigrants in this category can be deported without the benefit of a removal hearing in front of an immigration Judge. They are also denied the opportunity to appeal the deportation decision to the Board of Immigration.
Another consequence that immigrants convicted of “aggravated felonies” face is the ineligibility for asylum. Individuals who seek asylum have a justifiable cause to fear persecution and discrimination upon return to their homeland. Under the current immigration laws, the aggravated felon will be deported to their homeland despite the reality of the danger they face. They also lose the right to have their deportation cancelled by an immigration judge who deems the action an exceptional and extreme hardship for a lawful permanent resident or citizen.
Probably the most unsympathetic consequence that immigrants convicted of an “aggravated felony” face is permanent inadmissibility to the United States. The individual that is deported or has an order of removal for this conviction cannot re-enter the United States in the future without a special waiver from the Department of Homeland Security. Such waivers are rare, and the likelihood of coming back into the U.S. is low. Individuals in this case who illegally re-enter the country following deportation face 20 years in prison.
Opponents to current immigration laws are calling for careful review of the current crimes listed as “aggravated felonies”. Because of the harsh and severe consequences associated with a conviction, Congress is being asked to limit the crimes that fall under this category to those that are heinous and violent, such as murder, drug trafficking, and trafficking of firearms and destructive devices that the original law stated.
Philadelphia Immigration Attorneys at Surin & Griffin, P.C. provide Counsel and Representation for all Immigration and Nationality Law Issues
The Philadelphia immigration attorneys at Surin & Griffin, P.C. have been advocating for the rights of immigrants for almost 20 years. The experienced and knowledgeable attorneys at the firm are committed to providing multi-lingual services to all of their clients facing immigration and citizenship issues. In fact, Thomas Griffin, Esq. of the firm recently spoke on this subject at a local CLE Forum on “Crimmigration”.
If you or someone you know is facing deportation or conviction of a crime, call the reputable immigration lawyers at Philadelphia’s Surin & Griffin, P.C. at 215-925-4435, or complete our online contact form to schedule a consultation today. Conveniently located in the heart of center city Philadelphia, our offices are easily accessible by car and all modes of public transportation.