For individuals applying to become permanent residents of the United States, a clean criminal history is often a must. People who have been convicted of certain types of crimes may potentially be disqualified from getting their green cards if they have been convicted of crimes involving moral turpitude or aggravated felonies. What may not be so well known is that a conviction is not necessary under all circumstances in order for an immigration officer or official to deem an applicant (or even a lawful permanent resident) as "inadmissible." According to the Immigration and Nationality Act, an admission of a crime involving moral turpitude may also constitute a ground of inadmissibility.
What does the Immigration Statute Say?
Under Section 212a(2)(A)(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, any alien convicted of, or who admits having committed, or who admits committing acts which constitute the essential elements of (I) a crime involving moral turpitude (other than a purely political offense) or an attempt or conspiracy to commit such a crime, or (II) a violation of (or conspiracy or attempt to violate) any law or regulation of a State, the United States, or a foreign country relating to a controlled substance (as defined in section 802 of title 21) is inadmissible.
Under What Circumstances Will An Admission Count?
The admission must be a formal admission. Moreover, in order for an admission to be binding and held against an individual, three circumstances must be satisfactorily demonstrated:
- The officer must provide the applicant the text of the specific law from the jurisdiction where the offense was committed;
- The officer must provide an explanation of the offense and its essential elements in "ordinary" language; and
- The applicant must voluntarily admit to having committed the particular elements of the offense under oath.
Therefore, an inadvertent slip of tongue or blurting out about certain prohibited conduct will not necessarily hold up as an admission. However, should an immigration officer, whether at the border or inside the US, take the steps of swearing an individual in, he or she needs to be aware of the potential consequences of any such statement especially if it relates to conduct that could be interpreted as involving moral turpitude or any type of drug offense. Any conduct involving drugs can be especially dangerous given that practically any violation of law relating to a controlled substance can constitute a potential ground of inadmissibility.
The Benefit of Having Legal Counsel
Given the loaded potential of any formal admission to jeopardize one's admissibility, it is always a prudent idea to have counsel whenever permitted. While the presence of an attorney does not necessarily cut off a line of inquiry in an immigration context, the lawyer is nevertheless a witness to the proceedings. An attorney can not only observe whether an officer has complied with requirements of taking a formal admission, but also advise a client whether making such a formal admission is in his/her best interests.
We hope that you have enjoyed this article and learned at least one new thing or tip that you may not have known. To keep informed about the latest developments in immigration law, please subscribe to our blog feed by clicking on the "Subscribe To This Blog's Feed" button on the left. It is important to understand that the above is only general information and not legal advice. It does not create an attorney-client relationship nor should it be relied upon as legal advice. The law is extremely fact and circumstance sensitive. For an individual legal analysis of your specific legal case, please complete the "Case Evaluation" box to the right of the screen to get in touch with one of our attorneys.