Immigration 101: Criminal Deportability Grounds

If you’re facing removal, you will have to show the government that you don’t meet any of the grounds for deportability. Due to some quirky legal rules, the specific grounds for deportability are different from the grounds for inadmissibility, but broadly speaking, they are both divided into criminal and non-criminal categories. We’ve already written about the non-criminal grounds for deportability in an earlier post; in this article, we’ll cover the most common criminal grounds. As always, remember that there is no substitute for the advice of an experienced and knowledgeable attorney, who can help you navigate the complex and often confusing world of immigration law.

Note: Drug crimesaggravated felonies, and crimes of moral turpitude are criminal deportability grounds that merit their own specific articles. Click the links to learn more.

Crimes Involving Firearms and Destructive Devices

If, at any point after you were admitted to the US, you were convicted of a crime that involved buying, selling, trading, using, owning, possessing, or carrying a firearm, you may be deportable. This deportability ground applies to crimes involving “destructive devices,” which includes things like explosives, incendiaries, poison gases, grenades, rockets, or missiles. If your conviction involves trafficking in firearms or destructive devices, it may also qualify as an aggravated felony that could render you deportable.

In practice, however, a conviction for a firearm-related offense will not always lead to a finding of deportability under this provision, due to a quirk of federal law that exempts “antique firearms” from the federal definition. In some circumstances, this quirk can mean that this deportability ground won’t apply, even if the firearm involved was, in fact, a modern weapon.

Crimes Involving Human Trafficking

If you have ever committed an offense involving human trafficking, whether inside the US or not, you may be deportable. You may also be deportable if the government has reason to believe that you aided or assisted in a particularly severe form of human trafficking. Further, if you benefited financially from a family member who was involved in human trafficking activity, and you knew or reasonably should have known that the financial benefit came from that activity, you may be deportable. An exception may apply if you were a minor child at the time the human trafficking activity occurred.

Crimes Involving Domestic Violence, Violations of Protective Orders, and Child Abuse

You may be deportable if you have been convicted of a crime involving domestic violence, stalking, or violation of a protective order. Crimes involving the abuse, neglect, or abandonment of a child may also render you deportable.

A waiver is available to aliens convicted of crimes of domestic violence, stalking, or violation of a protective order. To qualify, you must have been in a relationship where you were subjected to battery or extreme cruelty, and you must not have committed the majority of the abuse. If you meet that description, you are eligible for the waiver if:

  1. You committed the crime in self-defense;
  2. You violated a protective order that was actually meant to protect you; or
  3. The crime you committed did not involve serious bodily injury, and there was a connection between that crime and the battery or extreme cruelty that you suffered.

No waiver is available for crimes involving child abuse.

Crimes Involving Failure to Register and Falsification of Documents

If you have ever been convicted of violating specific federal statutes that criminalize failure to register with immigration officials or fraud and misuse of a visa, you may be deportable. A conviction for making a fraudulent statement to an immigration officials or failing to register as a government agent is also grounds for deportability.

Other Miscellaneous Criminal Offenses

There are a few other miscellaneous criminal offenses that may render you deportable, including convictions for federal crimes such as:

  1. Failing to register as a sex offender
  2. Fleeing from police in a motor vehicle at high speed
  3. Espionage, treason, or sedition
  4. Violations of the Selective Service Act or the Trading With the Enemy Act

Waivers under 212-C, Based on Pre-1998 Convictions.

If you are a lawful permanent resident, and you have been found inadmissible or deportable because of a conviction that occurred many years ago, you may still be eligible for a waiver under a legal provision that was repealed many years ago, but that still applies in some situations. The waiver provision allows permanent residents who have been in the US for more than seven years to apply for a discretionary waiver of certain removability grounds arising from convictions that occurred before April 24, 1997. There are many other requirements for these waivers, and the rules governing them are very complicated. If you believe you might be eligible, you should consult an experienced immigration attorney for more information.

This article is part of our ongoing “Immigration 101” series, in which we break down topics in US immigration law. For more articles in this series, click here.

The content in this post was originally written by Stuart Nickum and adapted by Lena Barouh.

Disclaimer: The content in this blog is intended to be used for informational purposes only. Nothing herein should be construed as legal advice or opinion. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact us.


Recent Posts