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I am a Lawful Permanent Resident and when I came back from a trip outside of the United States, immigration officers took my green card, what do I do now?

This is a scary and surprising fact pattern that all to many green card holders find themselves in after a short or long trip outside of the country. No matter how long you have had your green card and how many times you have traveled outside the country in the past, on any given return trip, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officers can stop you at the air or sea port, take your green card and try to deport you. The ugly truth is that until you become a U.S. citizen, immigration officers can come knocking at your door on any given day and try to detain and deport you for a variety reasons.

As usual, I am not trying to scare anyone with this blog, but I have seen it hundreds of times both as an immigration attorney here in Orlando and in my former role as a Senior Attorney with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (check out my webpage for more info: https://www.slgattorneysflorida.com/john-gihon.html). If you have a green card and you think it can never happen to you, they will never take my green card and detain me and try to deport me, you could be sadly mistaken.

Whenever anyone (including green card holders) enters the United States and they are not a citizen, they run the risk of being forced to “seek admission” to the country just like every tourist, student, and other non-resident who comes to our border. Usually, if you have a green card, when you come back to the U.S., you get to show your foreign passport and green card, they ask you a question or two and you are then free to enter and return to your home here in the great United States. However, if you fall into one of many categories found in section 101(a)(13)(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, even if you have a green card, you will be deemed to be “seeking admission” and will be judged by the same standards as someone who has never been to the country before.

You can fall into this scary and potentially life-altering category based upon many factors. You may have stayed outside of the United States too long on this trip or in the past and they think you have you abandoned your status as a lawful permanent resident. You may have been convicted of almost any drug crime in the past and that may make you inadmissible and subject to detention and deportation. Same goes if you have been convicted of crime involving moral turpitude (think: theft, fraud, aggravated battery, etc.). Again, a single conviction for any federally controlled substance can lead to detention and removal proceedings.

There are a few other reasons why you may be sent to what’s called “secondary inspection” at the port of entry, and eventually to “deferred inspection” at a CBP office near your home, but these are the main ones, prior criminal convictions or accusations that you abandoned your green card.

Here is how the process usually goes. You and your family are returning home from a short cruise. You may not have left the country for the last decade-doesn’t matter-when you show your documents to the CBP officer at the port when getting off the ship, he asks you to go to a small area off to the side to talk to another officer. This is called secondary inspection. The officer in secondary will ask you questions to determine if you can be let into the country and you can go home, or if there may be a reason to detain you longer and send you to deferred inspection, usually about 30 days later. If you have a criminal record, they will run your RAP sheet, find any crimes that may make you removable from the U.S. and then tell you to go to deferred inspection in 30 days with certified copies of your conviction records.

If you receive a notice to go to secondary inspection and you want to keep your green card and avoid being detained by immigration officers, you should call an experienced immigration attorney immediately. Preparing for deferred inspection is extremely important. The documents you gather and give to the CBP officer before your appointment can make the difference between sitting in the Krome Immigration Detention Center for 5 months praying that you get to keep your green card, and sitting at home, leading your normal life while your attorney prepares for an immigration hearing three years from now. (Check out our removal defense page for more info: https://www.slgattorneysflorida.com/deportation-and-removal.html).

Even if a CBP officer tells you that you have abandoned your green card and you need to sign forms so they don’t deport you, DON’T DO IT, you have the right to fight to keep your green card and have a hearing before an immigration judge with an attorney to help you. Don’t let the immigration officers pressure you into giving up your rights.

With an experienced immigration attorney at your side you can fight to try and keep your green card and avoid detention and removal no matter why CBP tries to keep you out of the country. Make sure that if you receive that deferred inspection appointment notice at the airport, seaport or border crossing, you call an experienced immigration attorney right away.

Or better yet, if you have a green card and a criminal record, call an experienced immigration attorney for a consult about case before you travel abroad or apply for your citizenship. A small consultation fee can save you time, money and possibly save you from deportation.

If you need an immigration attorney anywhere in the United States, but certainly if you live in Orlando or Jacksonville, please call Shorstein, Lasnetski & Gihon.
Visit our website for more information about SLG: http://www.slgattorneys.com

You can reach John at John@slgattorneys.com
Follow John on Twitter: https://twitter.com/JohnGihon
Follow my blog: https://www.floridaimmigrationlawyerblog.com