In the wake of President Trump's Executive Actions on Immigration, this is one of the most frequently asked questions posed by undocumented and out of status aliens. The answer, unfortunately, is not so simple and belies how complex the immigration laws can be. Technically, most traffic violations, in general, do not constitute deportable offenses. In other words, a run-of-the-mill speeding ticket, committed in the absence of any aggravating factors or egregious circumstances such as going at an excessively high rate of speed with accident or injury, are not deportable violations. A lawful permanent resident who has committed a generic speeding offense or failed to maintain lanes will usually not have to worry about losing his/her status provided the offense is not serious in nature or a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude. However, if an individual is also out of status or has no legal status in the United States, the problem is that such an infraction may expose them to or make them more liable to be picked up ICE, which is the enforcement arm of the Department of Homeland Security. ("ICE" stands for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.) So while a speeding ticket in and of itself is not a legal basis for deportation, the person's illegal presence in the United States obviously is. The infractions only make the situation worse in terms of casting a blemish on the individual's law abiding character.
From 2015 to until recently, most undocumented or out of status individuals arrested or jailed for minor offenses and traffic violations were somewhat spared from the widespread reach of detainers by a November 2014 memo issued by DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson and the implementation of the Priority Enforcement Program or "PEP." However, with the issuance of President Trump's Executive Order, PEP as well as many memos issued under the Obama Administration, have now been dismantled and rescinded. In fact, the Secure Communities Program has been resurrected and will inform and guide ICE's policy with respect to detainers. As a result, there is expected to be a surge in detainers for illegal aliens currently in jail for minor offenses, even traffic related. Moreover, even if the individual is not in jail, mere commission of a traffic offense-even if not convicted-makes the person a priority for apprehension or removal. According to the DHS Memo issued by DHS John Kelly on , ICE is directed to focus enforcement on removable aliens who:
•· have been convicted of any criminal offense
•· have been charged with any criminal offense that has not been resolved
•· have committed acts which constitute a chargeable criminal offense
•· have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter before a governmental agency
•· have abused any program related to receipt of public benefits
•· are subject to a final order of removal but have not complied with their legal obligation to depart the United States or
•· in the judgement of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security.
Unless we hear differently, traffic offenses are certainly within the scope of the revised order, especially the first three categories. Consequently, undocumented and out of status aliens need to be especially vigilant as to these issues. Unfortunately, unless President Trump revises his current policy, those here illegally who also violate our traffic laws have now become priorities for apprehension and removal. It may now become necessary for anyone who is not a US Citizen charged with a traffic ticket to not only consult with a qualified criminal defense attorney but also immigration counsel.
The above is general information only and not to be relied upon as legal advice. It does not create an attorney client relationship nor should it be relied upon as advice in lieu of consultation with an attorney.