gurfinkel new photo thumb medium115 157

Under U.S. immigration laws, if a non-citizen commits and/or is later convicted of certain types of crimes that person could be removed/deported.

This is the case even if a person has been a green card holder for many years or later had the conviction expunged.

I have encountered people charged with crimes who either handled the case on their own and pled “guilty,” or their criminal attorney negotiated a “plea deal.”

After accepting the plea deal, they are shocked and horrified that DHS is now putting them in deportation procedure because of their criminal conviction.

They profess their innocence, claiming they never really did anything wrong, did not understand the consequences of pleading guilty, and as part of their deportation defense, hope to prove their innocence.

The problem with that approach is that the immigration courts do not try, re-try, or decide your guilt or innocence of the crime you committed as part of the deportation/removal proceedings.

The focus is on the fact that you were already convicted or pled guilty.

If you truly believed you were innocent, the place or venue to make that argument should have been in the criminal court.

However, the immigration judge will not try your criminal case, when you already passed up the opportunity to do so, by pleading guilty.

That is why it is important for a non-citizen charged with a crime, to have a criminal attorney represent them in the criminal matter.

They also seek the assistance of an immigration attorney who could work with the criminal attorney for an acceptable plea bargain.

Sometimes, it is possible to be charged with one crime, but the plea deal results in pleading guilty to a crime that may have no immigration consequences.

For example, I had a case where the person was charged with assault and battery, after getting into a fight with a bouncer/security guard.

Working with a criminal attorney, we negotiated a plea deal for “disturbing the peace,” which is like having your radio on too loud.

That would have no immigration consequences.

Had the person pled guilty to assault and battery, it could have had severe immigration consequences.

Sometimes a criminal attorney may not be fully aware of the immigration consequences of a plea deal.

The criminal attorney may be thrilled to get a plea deal that avoids jail time, but in so doing has the person plead guilty to a particular crime that will absolutely result in removal proceeding.

Sometimes a person will accept the plea deal just to get the criminal matter “over with,” not realizing the plea deal will come back to haunt them, from an important standpoint.

If you are not a U.S. citizen, and were charged with a crime, I would strongly recommend you immediately seek the advice of a reputable immigration attorney, who can analyze your situation, work with your criminal attorney in connection with negotiating an appropriate plea deal that would not have severe immigration consequences.

Moreover, if you already pled guilty to a crime that carries severe immigration consequences, maybe certain steps can be taken to reopen the criminal matter, or otherwise lessen the severity of the plea.

However, I want to be clear that no one can “guarantee” any plea deal, as many factors come into play, such as the severity of the crime, the strength of the evidence against the person, the flexibility of the prosecutor, etc.

But I want to stress that crimes committed by non-citizens have immigration consequences and, therefore, you should also consult an immigration attorney when making a plea deal.


Michael J. Gurfinkel has been an attorney for over 30 years, and is an active member of the State Bar of California and New York, as well as the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the Immigration Section of the Los Angeles County Bar Association.  

He has always excelled in school: Valedictorian in High School; Cum Laude at UCLA; and Law Degree Honors and academic scholar at Loyola Law School, which is one of the top law schools in California.  


Follow us on and Twitter @GurfinkelLaw

TOLL FREE NUMBER: 1-866-GURFINKEL (1-866-487-3465)


(This is for informational purposes only, and reflects the firm’s opinions and views on general issues. Each case is different and results may depend on the facts of a particular case. All immigration services are provided by an active member of the State Bar of California and/or by a person under the supervision of an active member of the State Bar. No prediction, warranty or guarantee can be made about the results of any case. Should you need or want legal advice, you should consult with and retain counsel of your own choice.)

Add comment

Security code

Latest comments