For many immigrants living in the United States having a legal permanent resident status may not necessarily give them a lot of comfort. This is because more and more, legal residents are facing deportation for minor crimes. In 1988, the Anti-Drug Abuse Act was enacted. The law specified that any immigrant who was convicted of an aggravated felony would be deported and prevented from coming back to the U.S. for a period of 20 years. At that time only serious crimes like drug trafficking and murder were considered aggravated felonies, but since then a whole slew of crimes have been redefined as fitting into that category including perjury, obstruction of justice and counterfeiting.

One immigrant from Haiti who become a legal permanent resident knows all about how a minor crime can get someone like himself deported. During a routine traffic stop about a decade ago, he panicked when the officer asked him to sign the speeding ticket. Because he had not paid a previous ticket, his license had been suspended. He was worried about getting in trouble for driving on a suspended license, so he signed his cousin’s name on the ticket, but felt so guilty about it that he told the officer right then and there. Although he confessed, he was charged with forgery. He did not have to go to prison and has not had trouble with the law since then.

The man was disembarking from a cruise recently when he was stopped by immigration officers who took him to a building nearby. He was forced to hand over his green card and passport. His case will go to trial in February.

This man would be well advised to consult with an immigration attorney prior to his court date. Doing so may enable him to stay in the country with his wife and children.

Source: The Atlantic, “Why Are Immigrants Being Deported for Minor Crimes?” Steve Patrick Ercolani, Nov. 20, 2013