Let’s talk about immigrants and expungements. Hi, I’m Jim Hacking, Immigration Lawyer practicing law throughout the United States at our offices in San Diego, St. Louis, and Washington. In today’s video, we’re going to talk about criminal activity by an immigrant and expungement. Now, the one thing they have to keep in mind when it comes to crimes, and there are a lot of issues that come up when an immigrant is charged with or pleads guilty to, or is found guilty of a crime. But conceptually, the one thing that you need to understand is there are 50 states and there are lots of municipalities in all those states, and in each state, the law is different and the criminal laws are different in all 50 states, and some people from other countries might not understand that.
So, for instance, the definition of what constitutes child abuse in Illinois is different than what constitutes child abuse in Arizona and in Alaska. And one of the most complex areas of the law is where criminal law and immigration intersect. And those statutory definitions, those little tweaks, those little changes in the law from state to state can have a huge impact on whether or not an immigrant gets deported for criminal activity. And I say all that, just because we’ve been seeing this troubling pattern when it comes to immigrants and expungement. And expungement is when you try to go and seal the record and undo the conviction or if somehow vacate it and somehow get rid of the case out of the state court system.
And remember, immigration is the federal government, that’s the whole United States. And so, when a immigrant is charged with a crime, convicted of a crime, or pleads guilty to a crime, they often times will get some kind of simple punishment like community service or maybe a little jail time or something. And then, before the immigrant is ready to apply for their next immigration benefit, they’ll get their records expunged. This can be a huge problem. You should really, really, really think through and really be careful about getting an expungement before you talk to an immigration lawyer. And the reason for that is that first of all, USCAS doesn’t treat expungements as legally operative. They don’t treat the expungement as the final decision. They go back and they look at the original thing that you pled guilty to.
But the reason that expungements can cause you so much trouble is that if the state court seals the records and I get hired later as the immigration lawyer to try to help you, if it’s all sealed, I can’t get it from the court to make immigration happy. It’s a huge, huge problem. I think it’s such of a huge problem that I’m willing to make this rule. And Jim’s rule when it comes to expungements is an immigrant should not get their criminal records expunged before talking to and hiring an immigration lawyer, doesn’t have to be me, to determine the deportability based on that crime and to make sure that they get a complete copy of it before it is expunged. You have to get a certified copy of the entire file before it is expunged, but you should not get it expunged without talking to an immigration lawyer.
And some lawyers will take your money and some criminal defense lawyers will do the expungement, and they’re not thinking this is an immigrant., This could be bad. So, I could write a whole book on the problems caused by expungement. But what I want you to know is that if you get convicted of a crime and if you get it expunged, it could really, really screw up your chances of staying in the United States. If it’s a questionably deportable offense, if it’s a close call and you can’t get all the records, we’re going to be really screwed and really hamstrung by the ability to get all those records or the inability to get all those records. And that’s really going to hurt your case.
So, remember, when you’re an immigrant and you’re charged with a crime, you’re not like a US citizen, you can’t do things that US citizens do. I really could write a whole book on all this, about crimes and immigrants, and there are books about it, but the long and the shorter it is, do not plead guilty to a crime without talking to an immigration lawyer. And just as importantly, do not expunge your records without talking to an immigration lawyer. I hope this makes sense. I hope you got the message. I’ll probably shoot some more videos about this, but in the meantime, if you have questions or if you’re charged with a crime and you’re an immigrant, give us a call, (314) 961-8200, email us at [email protected] Join us in our Facebook group, it’s called Immigrant Home. We’d love to have you in there.
Subscribe to our YouTube channel so that you get updates whenever we make videos like today’s video. And finally, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, usually at noon central time, you’re going to find me in the Immigrant Home Facebook group and on our YouTube channel, answering as many of your immigration law related questions as possible. Thanks a lot and have a great day.