In a recent decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held that the Government might rely on subsequent convictions to prove that a returning lawful permanent resident (LPR) is applying for admission and is removable from the U.S.
In this case, Maria Luz Munoz was a long-time LPR of the United States. In June of 2010, Ms. Munoz struck another woman with a club in a fight. Ms. Munoz was not arrested immediately for this crime. In December 2010, Ms. Munoz traveled to Mexico for a medical procedure and during her attempt to re-enter the U.S., she learned that she had a warrant for her arrest relating to the June incident. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officers did not allow Ms. Munoz to re-enter the U.S. as an LPR; rather, they paroled her into the country for prosecution and turned her over to the local authorities on her arrest warrant. Ms. Munoz was subsequently convicted of the crime. CBP officers then placed her in removal proceedings, arguing that she was inadmissible to the U.S. during her December 2010 entry, as she had been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude.
Ms. Munoz argued that she was not properly paroled into the U.S. upon her return from Mexico, as she had not yet been convicted, or even arrested for a crime. The Circuit Court determined that the Government properly considered Ms. Munoz an arriving alien and paroled her into the U.S. The Court reasoned that it was enough that the Government believed that she had already committed the crime for them to consider her an arriving alien and to parole her in. Her subsequent conviction for the offense simply confirmed what the Government already believed, that she was inadmissible for having committed a crime involving moral turpitude.
This case serves as an important reminder to every non-citizen. If you are not a citizen of the U.S., and you committed or been convicted of a crime, be very careful about leaving the country as you may have problems getting back in. Even if your conviction is not an offense for which immigration officers can place you in removal proceedings while you are here in the U.S., it may be a conviction for which they can try to keep you from coming back into the U.S. if you leave.
For example, one conviction for possession of less than 30 grams of cannabis/marijuana is not enough by itself to put an LPR into removal proceedings. However, if that same LPR left the U.S. and tried to return, immigration officers can detain and attempt to remove that person based upon the same single conviction.
The experienced immigration and criminal attorneys at Shorstein, Lasnetski & Gihon can help you if you are a non-citizen who is being prosecuted for, or has been convicted of a crime. We can help you attempt to obtain your U.S. citizenship so you can travel abroad freely; we can help you try to attack or modify your prior conviction so that it will not have any negative immigration consequences. If you are currently being prosecuted for a crime, we can represent you in your criminal case and try to protect your immigration rights. Call us today.