Will your criminal record be a bar to your eligibility for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals? The new deferred action immigration policy has several eligibility requirements including a relatively clean criminal record. If you have a minor conviction on your record, are you still eligible? Is it worth getting your conviction expunged or dismissed? And if you are considering a plea bargain, are there certain charges you should avoid?
If you apply for deferred action status, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will consider you entire criminal record—including arrests and dismissed convictions, but not all convictions are considered bars to eligibility. Below is a brief explanation and links to further resources.
1. Deferred Action is a discretionary policy, but these offenses generally disqualify an individual at the outset:
- A felony conviction (offenses punishable by more than one year of imprisonment).
- A “significant misdemeanor” conviction. “Significant misdemeanors” include: domestic violence, sexual abuse or exploitation, unlawful possession or use of a firearm, drug sales, burglary, driving under the influence, and any other misdemeanor for which you received a jail sentence of more than 90 days.
- Multiple misdemeanor convictions: three or more non-significant misdemeanors, not including traffic offenses (such as driving without a license).
- Convictions suggesting that you pose a threat to national or public safety (e.g., with gang enhancements).
Even if you have the above types of convictions on your record, you may be eligible under exceptional circumstances (See INA 240(e)).
How do you know what type of conviction you have? If you are considering applying for deferred action, you should request your entire criminal record (from the FBI as well as the Department of Justice in any state where you lived or were arrested) so that you can check for the exact status of any contact you have had with law enforcement and also so that you can check it for mistakes.
2. Is it worth it to get an old conviction dismissed or expunged?
Having an old conviction dismissed or expunged may help your application if your conviction would otherwise automatically disqualify you. The Law Offices of Thomas Greenberg has extensive experience getting old convictions dismissed and can help you.
Another option—better than getting a dismissal—would be to withdraw your plea (if it was recently entered) for good cause under California Penal Code section 1018 or have your plea vacated (undone) for legal error. It can be a complex and difficult process to get a judge to vacate your plea, but it may be worthwhile.
3. What about juvenile convictions?
Juvenile convictions do not automatically disqualify you for deferred action, however, they will be considered.
4. What if you have criminal charges pending?
If you have a criminal case pending, tell your attorney that you are a noncitizen and that you want to try to preserve your eligibility for deferred action. You may want to consider the following options, if available: informally deferring an entry of plea; seeking a deferred adjudication; entering a plea to a lesser, non-significant misdemeanor offense and obtaining a lesser jail sentence; pleading to an infraction or a minor traffic offense—if you are facing a DUI, you definitely want to try to pursue a lesser plea to protect your eligibility for deferred action. The Law Offices of Thomas Greenberg has been very successful in helping clients get charges reduced and protecting their immigration status.
Own the Dream http://www.weownthedream.org/
Immigrant Legal Resource Center http://www.ilrc.org/news-events/new-updated-resources-on-criminal-bars-to-deferred-action-for-childhood-arrivals
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services: http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.eb1d4c2a3e5b9ac89243c6a7543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=f2ef2f19470f7310VgnVCM100000082ca60aRCRD&vgnextchannel=f2ef2f19470f7310VgnVCM100000082ca60aRCRD