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Ten Things Every Criminal Lawyer Needs to Know About Their Immigrant Clients

On Behalf of | Jul 28, 2014 | Criminal Law & Municipal Court |

1. Never assume that your client is a United States Citizen just because he/she appears to be. Just because your client has no accent and acts and talks like everybody else does not necessarily mean he/she is a citizen!

2. Lawful Permanent Residents are not the same as US Citizens. These are two different classes of people. While lawful permanent residents possess green cards and are allowed to stay here indefinitely, they are not the same as naturalized citizens. Lawful permanent residents can be and are deported.

3. Just because a lawful permanent resident tells you that he/she has a green card is not the end of inquiry. You may need to investigate whether that person is already a citizen. There are many individuals who are United States citizen by derivation or acquisition who may not be aware of it.

4. Immigration Law can be extremely complicated. Determining the consequences of a criminal plea or conviction really does require the input and evaluation of an immigration or immigration attorney. An individual’s situation and amenability to deportation can easily change based on one fact or circumstance.

5. A non-citizen client may not only be concerned with deportation. Besides the obvious threat of deportation, some clients may be concerned about whether they will one day be able to travel, apply for their green cards, or qualify for US citizenship.

6. Sending a client to an attorney for a consultation is not the same as getting an evaluation or analysis done. The immigration attorney will rarely be able to give an answer on the spot to the client unless the conviction pertains to something that is very clear cut-ie., the immigration consequence of murder.

7. An immigration attorney needs to review the complete discovery. We cannot just go off a copy of the criminal complaint and assess the consequences. Again, this is where the complexity of the immigration attorneys’ task is often belayed by its simple objective: in order to evaluate the impact, we need everything. In the event that a client needs to plead guilty, we need to be aware of what is in the police reports and what may become part of the “record.”

8. As immigration counsel, we are not second-chairing or overseeing your work. We have the same goal: to help our mutual client and render the best possible advice and advocacy. In order for us to assist you, you need to open the playbook because this is a partnership that is deeply collaborative and requires the cooperation of both parties.

9. It definitely pays to have the client retain us and have us prepare a formal opinion letter for your use. The client will not necessarily understand everything we relate to him or her, and sometimes things need to be in writing in order to avoid any divergence between what is said and what the client thinks is being said.

10. We appreciate and admire you guys. You are our fearless counterparts, just in a different arena.