Not too long ago, Attorney General Bill Barr issued an important decision regarding good moral character determinations within the context of cancellation of removal. Under Matter of Castillo-Perez, the Attorney General held that two or more drunk driving convictions create a rebuttable presumption that an applicant does not possess good moral character. USCIS has now officially adopted and incorporated this principle into its own Policy Manual, specifically Volume 12 which pertains to Naturalization matters. According to the USCIS Policy Alert, the new policy regarding DUI good moral character determinations will apply to any cases filed or pending on or after October 25, 2019.
On October 25, 2019, Attorney General William Barr issued a very significant decision regarding eligibility for cancellation of removal, one of the most coveted forms of immigration relief for those charged with being in the country illegally. (Under cancellation of removal, individuals granted relief in immigration court not only get their court cases canceled but also receive green cards.) In order to qualify for cancellation, an individual must establish, among other things, that he/she possesses good moral character for the ten-year period preceding the application. Under this case, which Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker had previously certified to himself for review (prior to being succeeded by AG Barr), evidence of two or more DWI convictions during the ten-year period now creates a presumption that the individual does not possess good moral character. According to the Attorney General, "multiple DUI convictions represent a repeated failure to meet the community's high moral standards" and "criminal activity is probative of non-adherence" to generally accepted community conventions.
In New Jersey, a DWI is most commonly associated with alcohol. However, that is not the only way an individual can be charged with driving while under the influence. Under New Jersey statute 39:4-50, the law encompasses driving under the influence of not only intoxicating liquor, but also narcotics, hallucinogenic or habit-producing drugs. In other words, operating a motor vehicle under the influence of marijuana can give rise to a DWI charge just as easily as driving impaired due to alcohol.
This is a very common question that we deal with in the ordinary course of our business. Unfortunately, it is also one that is extremely complex and heavily dependent on a number of factors, including but not limited to the nature of the offense; one's immigration history; as well as one's criminal history. In general, in this climate, any arrest-even for offenses which may not be deportable-can potentially have an impact on one's immigration stay here.
In yet another ominous sign of the erosion of judicial independence, Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker recently certified a case to himself that may have a significant impact on foreign nationals charged with Drunk Driving or Driving Under The Influence. The case is Matter of Castillo-Perez, and this case is particularly important given the issues that the Attorney General will be deciding-possibly overruling previous BIA precedent. According to the certification, the Attorney General is directing the parties to address the following questions:
When it comes to DWI (39:4-50) in NJ, many people-including attorneys-often overlook the ramifications of a DWI on admissibility. Clients are often so concerned about deportability that they or their counselors may neglect to explore the impact of a Drunk Driving conviction on admissibility-which comes into play whenever a non-US citizen wishes to enter the United States or when an individual applies for permanent residence, either through the consular process or alternatively, adjustment of status.