What Green Card Holders Should Know About Immigration Court & Deportation

If you are a green card hold in immigration court proceedings, you’ll want to know as much as possible to resolve your situation.

Many immigrants with green cards (known as “lawful permanent residents”) are surprised to find themselves in deportation or removal proceedings.  Staring at their immigration court hearing notice, they wonder how this could ever happen to them.  Fortunately, green card holders have many ways they can fight removal.  In this article, we’ll explore why and when a green card holder can be placed in removal proceedings, and what can be done about it.

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Can green card holders be deported?

The short answer is yes.

Any non-citizen can in theory be placed in deportation proceedings, but only if they have done something that triggers a ground of removal. While green card holders are considered permanent residents, they don’t enjoy the same rights as U.S. citizens.  So when a green card holder has been accused of doing something wrong, he or she may wind up in deportation proceedings.

 

So when a green card holder has been accused of doing something wrong, he or she may wind up in deportation proceedings.

Reasons why a green card holder may have to go to immigration court

There are a number of situations where a green card holder can be placed in deportation proceedings. 

A major category of deportability is green card holders that have been convicted of a criminal offense.  These crimes include, but are not limited to:

  • Crimes involving moral turpitude, punishable by a year or more in jail, and committed within 5 years of admission.  Generally speaking, crime involving moral turpitude are those that have an element of bad intent, like theft or fraud
  • Multiple crimes involving moral turpitude
  • Crimes of Violence
  • Fraud with loss amount greater than $10,000
  • Burglary with a sentence of a year or more
  • Forgery with a sentence of a year or more
  • Rape
  • Sexual abuse of a minor
  • Murder
  • Drug offenses other than simple possession of marijuana under 30 grams

Know that these categories of crimes have very specific meanings.  And just because you’ve been convicted of a crime that sounds like it fits a category above, it doesn’t mean that you’re deportable.  The best way to find out is to consult with an experienced immigration attorney, who knows what does and doesn’t within these categories.

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What people with green cards can do stop a deportation

The first thing to realize is that just because you have been placed in deportation proceedings, it does not mean that you will be deported or arrested.  Also, just because you have to go to immigration court, it does not mean you’ve lost your green card.  The only way you lose your green card is if the immigration judge has given you a final order of removal, or if you have chosen to abandon your residence.

This means that you will have a chance to fight your immigration case before an immigration judge.  So what can you do to keep your green card?

The first line of defense is determining whether you have correctly been placed in deportation proceedings.  This should come as no surprise, but the government makes mistakes!  Just as the government sometimes accuses an innocent person of having done a crime, it often accuses lawful permanent residents of being deportable when they are not. 

So how do you know if you’ve been wrongly accused of being deportable?  To start, you need to look at your Notice to Appear.  This is the government’s charging document. It tells you what the government thinks you did, and why the government thinks that your actions make you deportable from the United States.  

If you’ve been wrongly accused, you can make that argument to an immigration judge.  Perhaps the government is wrong about your criminal history.  Perhaps the government is wrong in how they classified your offense.  These are very hard arguments to make on your own, so your best bet is to hire a qualified immigration attorney to help.

Let’s suppose that the government is able to show that you are deportable as charged.  That does not automatically mean that you will be deported.  You may qualify to apply for relief from deportation.  Think of “relief” as a defense to deportation.  

It can come in various forms:

  • Cancellation of removal for lawful permanent residents
  • Criminal waivers
  • Fraud waivers
  • Adjustment of status through a family members
  • Asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture
  • U visa (for victims of crimes)
  • VAWA (for victims of domestic violence by a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse)

There are many possibilities, and the eligibility requirements for reach type of relief are very different.  

The point is, you may qualify to apply for relief from deportation, and you should carefully review the possible forms of relief with an immigration attorney.  Also of primary importance, make sure you never miss an immigration court hearing date.  And take the steps needed to prepare for your court hearing well in advance.

In conclusion, green card holders can be placed in deportation proceedings, for a variety of reasons, including crimes and fraud.  But the good news is, there are many ways to fight your deportation.  Sometimes you can argue that you’ve been wrongly charged by the government.  And sometimes you can apply for, and win, relief from deportation.  The key is to be well-informed, and to get help from an immigration attorney as early as you can.  

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