A non-citizen in the greater Portland area who faces a criminal charge should be careful before accepting any plea bargain, even if the deal keeps the person out of jail and is otherwise generous. The reason is that there are many crimes, including misdemeanors, for which a person can face deportation.
Sometimes, it is difficult to stop deportation through the immigration court system after a criminal conviction. Additionally, federal authorities may detain the non-citizen without the possibility of bail while their removal case moves forward.
Deportation for a criminal conviction is possible even for a permanent resident who has lived in the United States for most of their life.
What immigration law calls “aggravated felonies” are deportable crimes
Immigration law classifies many offenses as aggravated felonies. After such a conviction, deportation is a strong possibility. It is hard to defend against removal in immigration court in these circumstances.
One should bear in mind that it is the federal law, not Oregon law, which decides what is an “aggravated felony.” While some of these crimes might seem pretty obvious, many seemingly minor criminal charges can be aggravated felonies under federal law.
To give some examples, any accusation of drug trafficking, including possessing a large quantity of drugs, can be an aggravated felony.
Theft-related crimes and certain violent crimes can also be aggravated felonies if a person is exposed to a jail sentence of at least 1 year.
Even not showing up for a court date can be an aggravated felony.
Other common crimes are deportable offenses as well
In addition to aggravated felonies, just about any drug conviction can lead to deportation. Of course, Oregon has liberalized its drug laws considerably. Moreover, even under federal immigration law, a non-citizen will not face deportation for possessing low amounts of marijuana.
Likewise, any crime related to domestic violence can lead to deportation, even though a person may be able to mount a defense to removal in immigration court.
There is also the catch-all rule that a relatively new arrival to the United States may face deportation for a “crime of moral turpitude”, while any non-citizen can face deportation for committing more than one such offense.
Given the possible serious consequences, including deportation, a non-citizen in Clackamas County should make sure they fully understand their charges and take the steps necessary to protect their rights.
They would be well-advised to seek the help of an experienced attorney with knowledge of both criminal law and immigration law.