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The immigration consequences of criminal convictions are often severe and may lead to the defendant’s deportation, exclusion from admission to the U.S. or denial of naturalization.
In 1996, Congress redefined and greatly expanded the types of offenses for which immigrants, including lawful permanent residents, can be deported and applied these definitions retroactively. Now any non-citizen can be deported for such minor offenses as petty larceny or violation of a temporary restraining order. These laws also eliminated judicial discretion to consider mitigating factors such as length of time spent in the US, rehabilitation, family hardship or honorable military service. The result is that long-time, responsible immigrants with US citizen spouses and children are being deported for minor offenses even if they were committed long ago.
VIAA works to inform public defenders and private criminal defense attorneys of the possible immigration consequences and works with them to fashion alternate pleas which will not put their clients in removal proceedings. VIAA also works to inform the immigrant community of their rights and responsibilities under US law.
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