The answer is clearly and unequivocally YES. Many people who are not yet citizens think that if they are arrested for a crime and the State or Government drops the charges, for any reason, they are home free and immigration officials can never use that arrest against them in the future. That is simply not true.
There are multiple grounds of inadmissibility that do not require a conviction in order for the government to use them against you. You may be thinking, I am in the U.S. lawfully, I don’t care about grounds of inadmissibility, those are for people who are here illegally or people just coming into the U.S. That’s not true either. Those grounds of inadmissibility, which do apply to people who entered without admission and those who are applying to come into the U.S., also apply to people trying to adjust their status to lawful permanent resident and get a green card.
Yes, that’s right, if you are a non-immigrant, visitor, student, employee, or in any other lawful immigration status and you want to get your green card, you have to pass all the same admissibility requirements that people coming in from overseas have to pass.
I recently had a client come in for our “crimmigration consultation” service where we work with immigrants and their criminal defense attorneys to help protect their immigration status while they are being criminally prosecuted: http://www.floridacrimmigration.com. This allows our clients, who are not yet citizens, to obtain a second opinion on the criminal case and to make sure that whatever the charges are against them, the plea agreements offered or pre-trial diversion contracts conveyed will not negatively affect their immigration status.
The nice thing was, this client was not looking for an Orlando Immigration Attorney or Jacksonville Immigration Attorney, this client was looking for expert advice to help protect his immigration status during a criminal prosecution. That is exactly what our crimmigration consultation is designed to provide.
The State charged the client with felony possession of a controlled substance, which is a crime for which a conviction would make him both removable from and inadmissible to the United States and likely prevent him from ever getting a green card. His criminal defense attorney told him that the pre-trial diversion agreement was the best option for him, and for most clients, that attorney was absolutely correct.
However, for criminal defendants who are not citizens, even a pre-trial diversion contract, which ultimately ends up in a dismissed criminal charge, can have devastating immigration consequences. Section 212(a)(2)(A)(i)(II) of the Immigration and Nationality Act bans people from entering the United States or getting their green cards through family or business if they have ever admitted the essential elements of a controlled substance offense.
This means that most people who admit they committed almost any drug offense, are banned from entering the U.S. or getting their green cards. Many criminal defendants and criminal defense attorneys have no idea that an arrest that results in a dropped charge can have the same negative immigration consequences as a conviction.
Thankfully for this client, we were able to obtain and review the pre-trial diversion contract offered to him and make sure that he was not required to admit the crime or confess his guilt in order to successfully complete the program and have his charges dropped. If all goes well, this client should face no direct negative immigration consequences for this arrest. Glad he called us.
John Gihon is a Florida Bar Board Certified expert in Immigration and Nationality Law and a Crimmigration Consultant. You can contact John If you need an Orlando Immigration Attorney or immigration advice about a criminal prosecution, no matter where you live in the World.