Immigration attorneys are very familiar with the concept of the aggravated felony; yet, the layman will likely not understand. The term is an arcane one, taking two words familiar to average people and making them into a new phrase. However, if you are an immigrant, aggravated felony is a term that is imperative you know. If you commit what is adjudicated to be an aggravated felony, you may wind up subject to deportation.
Where Did the Term Come From?
The first appearance of the term ‘aggravated felony’ was in 1988, under the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988. At this point, the term was construed only to include three disparate crimes: murder, drug trafficking, and illegal trafficking of firearms. Over time, approximately 50 more crimes have been added to the list, to the point where the term has been redefined and redefined again. As of this writing, the list contains any crime that can be said, in any way, to relate to fraud or dishonest character, but there are many exceptions.
In 1996, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) modified the definition of aggravated felony again, holding that an aggravated felony can apply to any crime on the list, even if that crime was not on the list at the time of conviction. This right has since been curtailed by several court cases. Still, the fact remains that ‘aggravated felony’ has, in many eyes, become a near catch-all term with which to render immigrants deportable. There is no specific definition of the term in current U.S. immigration law; it is simply described as ‘any crime Congress decides ought to be on the list.’
For an immigrant in this day and age, the term ‘aggravated felony’ is intimidating, but not entirely understood. While conviction of an aggravated felony is not the only issue that will render an immigrant deportable, an aggravated felony (as opposed to a crime of moral turpitude) will always affect the sentence handed down. Depending on the nature of the offense, and an immigrant’s status in the United States, an aggravated felony may wind up having a significant effect on how long any immigration bar may wind up being.
For example, an immigrant who is neither a citizen nor a lawful permanent resident may, if convicted of certain aggravated felonies, wind up being subjected to deportation without relief. It is also possible that an aggravated felon would be barred from applying for asylum, cancellation of removal (if applicable), or voluntary departure, depending on his or her status. If an aggravated felony is especially egregious, such as first-degree murder, an immigrant may be deemed permanently inadmissible upon his or her departure from the United States. It primarily depends on the nature of the crime committed, and on the status of the immigrant—both factors can play a major role.
Ask An Immigration Attorney
If you find that you may be found guilty of an aggravated felony, it is imperative that you understand your options. The zealous Chicago immigration attorneys at Mevorah & Giglio Law Offices are ready, willing, and able to help answer your questions and suggest a path for you going forward. Call us today to set up a free initial consultation.
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