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How A Criminal Conviction Impacts Texas Immigrants Seeking Legal Status

Judge holding gavelThis is the next post in my series on how being charged with a crime impacts immigrants in the Austin, Texas area. My last post discussed the impact of search and seizure issues in both criminal and immigration law. This was an important topic to address as a deportation proceeding is not stopped by Fourth Amendment violations. In this topic I will address another important topic – the impact of a criminal record on one’s effort to gain legal status.

It is important that one considers their long-term immigration status when resolving their criminal case. A criminal case may come to what seems like a favorable resolution but, unfortunately, there may be a negative impact on one’s immigration status. Say, for example, one is charged with a violent crime and their criminal defense attorney is able to negotiate a resolution where the defendant pleads guilty and receives probation rather than incarceration. The defendant/immigrant may see this as a good option and enter into the plea deal. The immigrant, however, may not realize that any attempt to apply for legal status would then likely be futile due to the criminal conviction. For this reason, it is important to consider immigration issues when deciding how to proceed in a criminal case.

Any undocumented Austin residents who are charged with a crime must understand that criminal convictions are “permanent” when it comes to immigration purposes. It is common for those convicted of crimes to later seek a sealing or expungement of their criminal records. This allows the person convicted to state, on an employment application, that they do not have a criminal history. When it comes to applying for legal status, however, the fact of the matter is that a criminal history will be considered regardless of whether the record was sealed or expunged. This is another key difference between criminal law and immigration law.

The above-described differences between immigration law and criminal defense make it crucial that one, who may wish to apply for legal status, hire the right attorney. Unfortunately, many criminal defense lawyers do not practice immigration law. This results in a situation where criminal defense counsel may be able to obtain a resolution which, by criminal law standards, is good for the client while in actuality it is not good for the client’s immigration status. Because people rely on the advice of their counsel, an undocumented person may accept the resolution without understanding the impact it will have upon immigration status.

Our Austin immigration lawyers assist people throughout Travis County and Williamson County, Texas. We will stay in regular contact with you throughout the process and our goal is to ensure that you know what to expect each step of the way. Contact us online or by telephone to schedule an initial consultation.

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