Immigrants to the U.S. should never “wait to see what happens” in their criminal case before hiring an Immigration Attorney

When you are not a U.S. citizen and you are in criminal court facing criminal prosecution, why you should never wait to see what happens in your criminal case and then hire an immigration attorney.

I have spoken to many non-citizen clients who are facing criminal prosecution. When I let them know that they need to be concerned about the immigration consequences of their criminal prosecution before their case is over, many ignore my advice. Often times they are so worried about going to jail, that their immigration status is not at the top of the list on their concerns. I always tell them, “you need to be concerned about how this criminal case is going to affect your immigration status now, before the case is over, do not wait until it is too late.”

Many clients ignore my advice and they use a criminal defense attorney who doesn’t know about immigration, or they do not hire our firm or another experienced immigration attorney to help before the criminal case is over. Those same clients often are detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as soon as they are released from criminal custody, or they are arrested by ICE while reporting to probation after their criminal case is over.

Often times, the same clients that we warned during the criminal case, call us when they are in ICE custody and ask for help. Often times I have to tell them, there is nothing we can do now, your criminal case is over and you were warned that you were subject to deportation as a result of your plea. I remind them, if you had hired us to help during your criminal case, rather than after, we may have been able to reduce or remove the negative immigration consequences of your criminal charges.

A quick example; I had a client who is a lawful permanent resident and who hired a criminal defense attorney to defend him on his criminal case. The criminal defense attorney knew nothing about immigration and told the client as much. The criminal defense attorney didn’t know any immigration attorneys and the client couldn’t find one to talk to during his case. The client just put off worrying about immigration until after the case was over. Big mistake.

While he was in prison, ICE told him they were going to deport him and as soon as he got out of prison, ICE detained him and scheduled him for deportation. The client came to us for help, he wanted to vacate his criminal conviction because he didn’t know he was guaranteed to get deported. He thought he would have a chance to stay. So we helped him by trying to vacate his conviction, but the criminal Judge denied our motion and said that the client was told he would be deported and entered his plea anyway.

Had the same client come to us during the criminal prosecution, we could have worked with their criminal defense attorney to craft a plea bargain or negotiate with the state or even helped them go to trial and attempt to avoid the guaranteed deportation that came with the plea bargain he accepted.

Bottom line, hire a qualified and experienced immigration attorney to represent you during your criminal case, or at least to advise you and your criminal attorney before the criminal case is over, not after!

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