Foreseeable crisis at US port of entry
Traveling with a US visa or a permanent resident card is no guarantee that one’s entry in the United States is going to be seamless.
Anyone with a criminal history may run the risk of removal unless they are US citizens.
Claudia is married to Jim, an American. Despite having resided as a couple with his wife for many years, Jim did not file a petition for immigrant visa on her behalf until 2010. Claudia obtained her green card that same year.
In 2013, Claudia and Jim were always arguing about several marital issues including suspicions of Jim’s infidelity.
One day, when Claudia was browsing through Jim’s computer, she read an e-mail from a certain Mary and confirmed her suspicions of an affair.
When he arrived from work, Claudia confronted him until she became violent. She took a knife and hurt Jim in his arm.
The neighbors heard the commotion and called the authorities. When the police arrived, they took Claudia into custody.
Jim had a small wound on his arm but did not file a complaint. He refused to testify against Claudia and requested the prosecutor to dismiss the case.
Despite his request, the prosecutor charged Claudia with a domestic violence offense. Claudia served 30 days in jail. After she was released from imprisonment, Jim and Claudia reconciled and traveled to the Philippines for a vacation.
Upon their return to the United States, Claudia was put in secondary inspection and was issued a notice to appear for her removal/deportation hearing. Since she was charged with a felony conviction for domestic violence, she was put in removal proceedings.
Grounds for removal
Jim is worried that Claudia might be ordered removed and sent back to the Philippines.
Does Claudia still have a legal option to remain in the United States? Are all noncitizens with violent crimes deported? What can Claudia do?
Certain criminal convictions could result in serious immigration consequence for a non-US citizen. This may apply to non-immigrant visa holders and those with permanent resident visas or green card holders. Persons residing in the United States who are noncitizens and have been convicted of offenses such as controlled substance offenses, theft, firearm offenses, crimes of violence and crimes against moral turpitude may be at risk of being put in removal proceedings.
Similarly, a person with criminal convictions trying to enter the United States or applying for a visa may be denied issuance.
An offense committed in a domestic violence setting can qualify as a crime involving moral turpitude and may be grounds for removal or it could be the basis for being denied entry in the United States. This is what happened to Claudia.
The US Customs and Border Protection discovered in their system at the port of entry that Claudia had committed this crime.
In order for Claudia to stay in the United States, she can try to have the felony conviction reduced to a misdemeanor offense or apply for a waiver. Under Section 212(h) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, the eligibility factors for this waiver include among others seven years of physical presence in the United States and presence of a qualifying relative US citizen or a lawful permanent resident spouse, child or parent and proof of extreme hardship to the latter. Claudia is still married to Jim and has been in the United States for more than seven years. Once this waiver is approved, Claudia’s removal case will be terminated.
There are many travelers who enter and exit the United States without realizing the possible consequences of their past actions. Having a criminal conviction—no matter how petty—may have an immigration consequence and it is always best to determine whether the criminal offense has any adverse impact on one’s reentry into the United States. Green card holders are not exempt from the inconvenience of having to deal with a removal case.
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