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What kind of crimes can get me in trouble with immigration?

All immigrants, including those who are legal permanent residents, can be deported if there is evidence that they have committed a crime of “moral turpitude” or an “aggravated felony.”  Furthermore, certain crimes are specifically named by immigration law as grounds for removal.

What is “moral turpitude” according to immigration law?

U.S. immigration law does not give a clear definition of what constitutes a crime of moral turpitude.  The law simply states that “Any alien who is convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude … and either is sentenced to confinement or is confined therefor in a prison … for one year or longer, is deportable. 8 U.S.C. § 1251(a)(2)(A)(i).  The Department of State has indicated that a crime of moral turpitude includes crimes with elements such as fraud, larceny, and intent to harm person or things.  Crimes such as murder, voluntary manslaughter, kidnapping, robbery, and aggravated assaults all involve moral turpitude.  Other crimes involving dishonesty and theft will very much likely be considered crimes of moral turpitude.  Finally, crimes involving spousal abuse and aggravated driving under the influence have also been considered as crime of moral turpitude.

Immigration law provides that a crime could escape being classified as a crime of moral turpitude if the offense is considered “insignificant:” if the penalty for the crime committed could never be more than one year in prison and, if at any time, the person involved in the crime served a sentence in prison or jail less than six months. 

What is an aggravated felony according to immigration law?

U.S. Immigration law has a long list of crimes that are considered as aggravated felonies.  Some examples include murder; drug and firearm trafficking; money laundering; fraud or tax evasion involving amounts greater than $10,000; espionage; and more.  When a person is convicted of an aggravated felony, the only possible defense against deportation is to prove that it is more likely than not that the person will face torture in their home of origin if he or she is deported.