Interviewer: What is crimmigration and why is it important to people that are not citizens that are in some stage of immigration?
Ron: Several legal scholars authored the word 'crimmigration'. The practice of it is essentially involves the study of two fields of law. The first one being criminal law and the second one being immigration law. The actual word crimmigration stands for the immigration consequences associated with criminal activity and in this case my expertise is in New Jersey criminal activity.
CRIMMIGRATION COMPRISES CRIMINAL LAW AND IMMIGRATION LAW
So, what would be the immigration consequences of that particular New Jersey crime that you are about to plead guilty to? Now, criminal cases often trigger harsh immigration consequences. It's not unusual to see a minor drug offense conviction with simply a fine, maybe a small period of probation result in a life sentence back to a country that the immigrant may have left when they were only a child.
Crimmigration Is a Field of Law Practiced in the Defense of People Who Are Not US Citizens
Interviewer: So what's the best name for the group of people we're talking about? Are they immigrants? Are they foreign nationals?
Ron: They are referred to by a number of names. I don't particularly like alien. Alien never sat too well with me but foreign nationals is one term, immigrants would be another and you will hear them referred to as undocumented aliens. There is a host of names associated with those folks that are not US citizens.
Interviewer: I imagine the most detrimental classification of them would be illegal aliens?
Ron: Yes, that is right. An undocumented, out of status foreign national is definitely the lowest status that you can have in this country.
Besides being a citizen, there are many different levels of immigration. There are people that have green cards that are close to being citizens. There are people just here on a non-immigrant visas. All of these foreign nationals could be affected by "crimmigration" consequences.
What Is the Definition of Naturalized?
Interviewer: When you say naturalized do you mean a naturalized citizen or do you mean something else?
Ron: Naturalized, in the immigration context, means a foreign national, who has obtained their citizenship through the immigration process. In other words, they had a green card for let's say five years so they would be eligible to naturalize, to become a US citizen. They've got to pass a written test, they have to pass a history test, and then of course take the oath of allegiance to the United States.
In Order to Become Naturalized, You Must Divulge Any Prior Convictions
Interviewer: So you mean naturalized citizens can face crimmigration issues?
Ron: It is unusual but they could face problems. Let's say they were convicted of some type of crime that they never listed or admitted to when they applied for naturalization. In fact, in order to become naturalized you have to be a person of good moral character and the look back period is five years.
Arresting a Foreign National: What National Agencies Are the ICE and the CBP?
Interviewer: When people get in trouble with immigration, is it the New Jersey state police that arrest them or are there special organizations that would become involved with the arrest process?
Ron: There are really two agencies that prosecute foreign nationals for a variety of offenses. They're all part of the Department of Homeland Security. The most popular agency is ICE which stands for immigration and customs enforcement. This agency is really the immigration police. They operate within the state.
The next agency probably the most familiar after ICE is CBP, and that's the Customs Border Patrol. This agency patrols mostly at borders and airports. They have the authority to question the foreign national at length as soon as they get off the plane. Or, they can put someone back on a plane to return the foreign national back to his or her country. Now, ICE and CBP, like most law enforcement agencies, have their own priorities.
Deporting Convicted Drug Users and Sexual Offenders: Do These Agencies Have Their Own Priorities?
For example, at the top of ICE's priority list are foreign nationals convicted of sexual abuse of a minor or the drug dealers. At the very bottom are pleasant, attractive, female foreign nationals who have overstayed their visa. After all, most ICE and CBP officers are men.
Interviewer: Are these agencies on the lookout to try to find and root out foreign nationals that shouldn't be here or do they do their job when they need to but they're not hunting for people, essentially?
Ron: We just mentioned the priorities that all government agencies have and ICE and CBP they have their priority list. In fact, often they name the various priority lists but certainly they are targeting drug dealers and sex offenders. They will investigate the foreign national defendant who just pled guilty to sexual abuse of a minor or some type of sexual offense to a child. When that person's probation or jail sentence is over, they will arrest that individual.
Foreign Nationals Will Need an Attorney Well-Versed in Crimmigration Issues to Handle a Deportation Order
Interviewer: Will this person who is in jail or on probation know in advance that they will be placed in removal proceedings?
Ron: People that have hired criminal defense attorneys that are familiar with immigration law will know this; or those defendants who have hired an immigration attorney who specializes in this field of work, crimmigration, certainly will know. If they have not hired either one, it may come as a rude awakening that they are about to spend a life sentence back in a country they may not want to reside in.
There are other ways that foreign nationals that come into contact with ICE and one of the more popular ways is through traffic offenses. If local police officers pull someone over for a DWI or a drug offense and if there's any period of incarceration associated with that particular offense; the sheriff of that county will notify ICE. ICE will place a detainer on the foreign national. ICE has 48 hours, to come pick up the foreign national.