Federal Immigration Law Enforcement: Procedures and Complaints

An Overview of the Immigration

Law enforcement and criminal justice, as they apply to the foreign-born as well as the native-born, are mainly the provinces of state and local government. But the federal role, led by the Immigration, part of the Justice Department, has been growing over time. This country since 1917 has had some kind of framework for removing criminal aliens; in 1925 Congress established the U.S. Border Patrol to provide a means of arresting aliens who attempt to enter illegally. The current state of the art in dealing with the problem consists of provisions inserted into various crime and immigration legislation over the last few decades. Under current law the INS is authorized to deport aliens convicted of “aggravated felonies” violent, property, or drug crimes that are punishable by prison sentence of at least one year, whether or not such a sentence was imposed or served. The Immigration enforcement process typically begins when the agency’s investigators identify potentially deportable aliens within the federal, state, or local justice systems. Because of limited resources, INS tends to avoid pursuing aliens who are released on probation or a suspended sentence; instead the agency focuses on persons nearing the end of a prison sentence.

Once an alien has served his time as with citizens, most do so in state rather than federal prison Immigration detains that person and begins proceedings through its Institutional Hearing Program (IHP) to determine his or her deportation status. If after a certain length of time INS determines either that the alien is deportable or that further investigation is needed, the agency places a “hold” on that person. If the INS determines the alien poses no threat to the public, it releases that person. If, on the other hand, the INS issues a deportation order, the criminal alien is entitled to contest the decision.47 At the hearing, the alien may present various grounds for immunity, including political asylum and extreme family hardship. The potential deportee may appeal an adverse ruling through the Department of Justice, the federal courts and, finally, the Supreme Court. If an alien has been deported for a felony, he may not reenter. If he is caught reentering, he is subject to a prison sentence of up to 20 years.48 A conviction is usually assured unless the defendant is in the country lawfully. The Immigration usually identifies returned felons through a computerized database of thumbprints from well over 2 million deportees.

Even where immigrants have not committed a crime, Immigration performs a key gatekeeper role in the naturalization process. All immigrants applying for citizenship must fill out an application requiring them to list any prior arrests or convictions, and swear under oath that the information is true and complete. They also must have their fingerprints taken. Until fairly recently, it was common for Immigration to deny citizenship on the grounds that lying about one’s criminal record was a demonstration of poor moral character. Pressure from mass-immigration groups, however, has all but eliminated this explanation as a basis for rejection.

Most criminal attorneys are not familiar with the Immigration law, so you must hire an Immigration attorney who also practices criminal law.The crossover between immigration and criminal law is one of the most complex and technical areas of law.  All immigrants, including those with green cards, can be deported if they violate U.S. immigration laws. The most common reason for people to be placed into removal proceedings is because there is evidence that they have been convicted of dishonesty, theft, spousal abuse, DUI or DWI, petty offenses such as shoplifting, simple assault.

You could be put in deportation if you commit 2 or more and if you commit a crime within 5 years of obtaining a green card.