Criminal Immigration Lawyer NYC | Feiner & Lavy Law Firm

Why a green card holder needs an NYC Criminal Immigration Attorney?

Sometimes bad things happen to good immigrants. And if you’re a law-abiding, lawful permanent resident (LPR) of the United States, you could find yourself unexpectedly facing deportation or removal proceedings for something that seems insignificant. How can this happen? It falls under the broad heading of crime – such as an aggravated felony or Crime Involving Moral Turpitude. An aggravated felony doesn’t necessarily involve violence and may not actually be a felony, but it is a broad and evolving list of crimes that has been established by the Congress of the United States that could result in the deportation of a non-citizen. Many of these crimes are identified as “crimes of moral turpitude”, which is a fancy way to describe immoral acts like drug trafficking, prostitution or even being a “habitual drunkard.” These and other seemingly minor offenses – known in New York as Class E Felonies – may not lead to automatic deportation, but require assessment and action by a New York Criminal Immigration Law Firm. Here are a few examples of things that may seem fairly innocent on the surface, but could lead to deportation action if you are convicted of a charge:

  • A woman’s boss called and demanded that she come to work right away. She panics and, in her haste, leaves her seven-year-old son alone thinking he will be okay for a few hours. A neighbor who doesn’t like the woman knows she has left the child alone and that the woman’s boss will keep the woman away for more than a few hours, so the neighbor calls Child Protective Services. An aggressive agent decides to charge the woman with abandonment of a child, a Class E Felony in New York that could carry a sentence of more than a year in jail and as a result she may lose her green card.
  • A man defending his son from a gang of neighborhood children knocks down one of the gang members, who is injured when he smacks his head against the sidewalk. The gang member, who appears to be an older boy, is actually only 11, and the man is arrested and charged with aggravated assault upon a minor, a Class E Felony in New York a deportable offense.
  • A man is out at a nightclub and meets an attractive lady. They take an interest in each other and have a casual, consensual sexual encounter. The man assumes that because the drinking age is 21, any person being admitted to the club is 21. In this case, the lady has a fake ID and is really 16. Charges can be brought for rape in the third degree (sex with an underage minor) and under these circumstances they could qualify as a Class E Felony in New York, which can trigger removal proceedings.
  • A young lady’s boyfriend is a shady character. She knows this, but ignores it because he’s always been kind to her. He gives her a lovely and expensive piece of jewelry that she suspects may be stolen. She’s proud of it and shows it off, but her jealous rival tells a cop who is hoping to get promoted to detective. This leads to a charge of criminal possession of stolen property, which is a Class E Felony in New York and ICE may place her in deportation and removed her from the United States.
  • A man is riding in the car with friends and they are stopped by police. He may be aware that his friends are dealing drugs, but is not involved in the act of distribution. The man is arrested with them and charged as an accomplice for possession with intent to sell, which is a Class B Felony that carries a first offense sentence of one to nine years, which makes him ineligible to apply for adjustment of status.

You may think of the immigrants and non-immigrants we have described as victims of circumstance, but the criminal legal process may not be so generous in its perspective. Aggressive police, Immigration and Custom Enforcement, prosecutors and judges can make things very difficult for a green card holder or undocumented person who has otherwise been law-abiding. Criminal Convictions can happen very quickly, and deportation can be among the consequences. This is why it’s important to turn to a skilled New York City Criminal Immigration Lawyer. A well-intentioned but overworked public defender could take a plea deal from a prosecutor in the hopes of getting reduced jail time and resolving a case quickly, but the lesser sentence may automatically trigger removal proceedings and that may not be a concern of a public defender.

When it comes to crimes and immigration, the law can be very technical, requiring a NYC Criminal Immigration Lawyer that has the kind of experience and skill that can hopefully help a client to stop a deportation case for criminal activity or earn an immigration waiver for a conviction or guilty plea.
There are various types of immigration waivers that you would need to apply for, and a New York Criminal Immigration Lawyer would know the right one for your situation and can immediately apply for a waiver for criminal activity. A couple of common waivers include:

  • A 212(h) Waiver or Form I-601. This waiver grants authority to USCIS or Immigration Judge waive and forgive certain criminal convictions that could lead to the loss of a green card. This would apply to “crimes of moral turpitude” like prostitution or a single offense of possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana, but would not apply to a firearms offense or drug offense involving illicit drugs or more than 30 grams of marijuana
  • A 212(c) Waiver. This applies for convictions prior to September 30, 1996 and the applicant cannot have served more than five years for one or more aggravated felonies, with some exception.
  • A 212(d)(3) Waiver. This would be authorized by the Department of Homeland Security for people who were previously deported or cannot obtain a visa because they committed a crime. Under this section, anyone convicted of an act of terrorism or a security-related crime would not be eligible, however. The 212(d)(3) waiver applies to people who are not interested in becoming a lawful permanent resident (LPR), but wish to enter the United States temporarily as non-immigrant on a tourist, business or work visa and they have been expelled from the US due to a previous conviction or are not eligible for a visa due to criminal records in a different country.


I have a green card. Can I still be deported if I committed a crime?

Yes! If you have a green card you can still be deported if you committed a crime. A green card holder is not a US citizen, but rather a lawful permanent resident. This is an important distinction in the eyes of the law. The easiest test for who is and isn’t a citizen is simply: Can I be issued a US passport? If you were not born in the US or a naturalized American citizen, you cannot be issued a passport. So, if you’ve immigrated from another country and need to travel abroad, you will continue to use the passport of your home country because you are not eligible for a U.S. passport. That said, if you have been convicted of a crime, you may need a criminal immigration waiver and an immigration judge or USCIS will need to waive the conviction to have your green card returned.

I want to apply for a green card but was convicted of a crime and deported. Does this make me ineligible for a green card now?

Not necessarily. If you want to apply for a green card but you were convicted of a crime and got deported, you may still be eligible for a green card. That depends on the charges that led to your conviction. However, you will need a criminal immigration waiver in order to successfully pursue a new green card or immigrant visa. It’s another long road to travel, but a good NYC Criminal Immigration Attorney has the map and knows the shortest route to this goal.

Can a criminal charge that seems a minor turn lead to deportation?

Yes! a criminal charge that seems minor my lead to deportation if you are convicted. It often depends on the criminal charge and the circumstances that led to it, which can evolve in a manner that could lead to a deportation action. A skilled New York Criminal Immigration Lawyer will have the know-how to stop things before they snowball.

Just to understand, what if I have never been in trouble before, but I overstayed a visa and then got charged with driving under the influence and possession of a small amount of pot – about five joints? I have always followed the law and this was a one-time offense. Is it automatic that I will be deported?

While the Trump administration has pursued a “zero tolerance” policy for illegal immigrants and you are technically in the country illegally because you overstayed your visa without authorization, things could still turn out okay. The DUI and marijuana charge (since it’s likely below the threshold of 30 grams – an average joint contains around 0.5 grams of pot) are things that can be waived by an immigration judge. But this is probably a complicated and bumpy road. Immigration law would require you to prove that removal would be a hardship on your family (parent, spouse and/or child), that you’ve been in the country at least 10 years, that you haven’t been convicted of a previous offense, and/or that you can establish “good moral character.” Even if you check all those boxes, it doesn’t guarantee that you will not be deported. A New York Criminal Immigration Lawyer knows how to present your case in a way that should give you a fighting chance of earning a favorable ruling.

My girlfriend and I live together and we had a very loud fight, during which I grabbed her arm and she had a bruise. The police responded, she was very mad, and I was arrested and charged with an act of domestic violence. I am here on a work visa. Am I in danger of being deported?

Yes! Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, conviction of a non-citizen for an act of domestic violence can result in deportation. Taking care to understand the circumstances of the case and to steer the charges away from what could be deemed an “aggravated felony” and result in a potential deportation action is the kind of help you should expect from a New York Criminal Immigration Attorney.

Where can I find a list of “aggravated felonies”?

The list of “aggravated felonies” is constantly evolving, which makes assessing a criminal charge tricky. This is why calling a New York Criminal Immigration Attorney is a smart move. The term “aggravated felonies” is a term of art in the legal profession, meaning that it’s understood by immigration lawyers and judges, but not really designed to be understood by people outside the profession. However, if something you’re being charged with carries a term of one year in jail or more, then there is a good chance that this could be considered an “aggravated felony.”

Lawyers are expensive. Why should I pay for an experienced New York Criminal Immigration Attorney when my I don’t think my case is that serious?

You’re right: lawyers can be expensive. But you will pay less at the beginning of a cycle than at the end. When you begin fighting an action that just began, you’re fighting one charge but stopping a second problem from ever happening. If you wait, you’ll have to fight a conviction and a deportation action. By taking swift action, the criminal immigration attorney can stop problems before they occur and you will end up paying less. If you want, think of it like a New Yorker: you’re in Central Park and you can take a cab just to Penn Station or to Kennedy Airport and then to Penn Station. You know that with the meter running all the way, the second route is going to cost you a whole lot more.

What should I look for in a New York Criminal Immigration Law Firm?

Law firms can specialize in various areas of the law or can be more general practices. If you are seeking someone to help you with a criminal immigration problem that could lead to or has already led to a deportation action being started, you absolutely should seek a firm that has both immigration and criminal law expertise. At Feiner & Lavy, we pride ourselves on our record as a top immigration law firm that has branched out to have had a track record of success in criminal immigration matters for non-citizens. And it is important that a firm has a good stable of associates if a criminal area requires a specific kind of expertise. Plus, in addition to English, our legal team is able to help clients who are more comfortable speaking Hebrew and Spanish.