How Immigration and Drug Charges Affect Immigration Status
Author: Jameel Manji, Founder, Manji Law, P.C.
Mr. Manji founded Manji Law in 2016 to follow his passion of helping people navigate the complicated immigration system. Mr. Manji graduated from Georgia State University College of Law and received Master of Taxation from the Georgia State’s J. Mack Robinson College of Business. Published on: March 24, 2021.
The relationship between immigration consequences and drug charges can complicate your pursuit of a life in the United States. Learn more here with Manji Law, P.C.
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How Can Drug Charges Affect Your Status in the United States?
If you are not a U.S. citizen but you are facing a drug conviction, that can result in severe immigration consequences. Under United States immigration law, certain criminal convictions, especially those that are drug-related, can lead to a nonimmigrant being deported. Even if you’ve obtained a green card and became a lawful permanent resident, you may lose it and face removal from the United States.
For example, you may be deported for conviction of simple possession of a controlled substance other than small amounts of marijuana. You may also face deportation for possession of controlled substances for personal use. Even if you struggle with addiction, you may face deportation.
U.S. immigration law has a long list of grounds of deportability or reasons you can be removed or deported from the country. However, an experienced criminal defense lawyer who is proficient in immigration laws can help you deal with immigration consequences successfully. Jameel Manji, the founder of Manji Law and a passionate advocate for the immigrant community in the United States, is certainly the type of attorney you should be looking for.
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How Does a Drug Conviction Affect Eligibility to Become a Citizen?
Every U.S. state regulates its controlled substances offenses differently. In the State of Georgia, well-known drugs, in addition to compounds used to manufacture them, are classified as controlled substances. Every possession conviction is considered a felony except for convictions that involve a small amount of marijuana.
A conviction for the possession of controlled substances can result in long periods of jail time. These felonies are punishable by up to 30 years in prison, depending on the type of controlled substances involved in the offense. A repeat offender is often punished more harshly.
Depending on the type of the drug crime and the legal status of a noncitizen, convicted individuals may face the following immigration consequences:
- Optional or mandatory removal or deportation
- Inadmissibility to the United States
While some drug crimes result in possible or optional removal, for others the deportation is mandatory. For example, non-citizens who are addicted to drugs or are convicted of a drug-related crime that involves controlled substances (other than possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana), may face optional deportation.
However, deportation is mandatory if a non-citizen is convicted of:
- Any two crimes or more that carry aggregate penalties of more than five years.
- A drug crime that is considered an aggravated felony.
- A drug offense that is a crime involving moral turpitude.
Not all possession offenses are considered crimes involving moral turpitude. A drug crime such as simple possession for personal use is typically not considered a crime involving moral turpitude (CIMT). However, drug offenses involving drug trafficking or distribution of drugs usually are. In addition, if several drug charges are added onto a drug crime, these may constitute crimes involving moral turpitude.
Individuals can face deportation if crimes involving moral turpitude were committed within 5 years of admission to the United States, carry a penalty of one year or longer, or if two or more CIMT drug offenses didn’t arise out of one criminal offense.
Drug cases can be frightening. If a non-citizen is facing a drug charge, the most important step is to contact an immigration attorney. Although having a criminal record will not automatically disqualify you from immigrating to the United States, it’s essential to work with skillful immigration defense counsel who will apply needed waivers that will allow you to continue your pursuit of United States citizenship. Please contact us today at 678.902.2999 to get started.
Immigration and Drugs: Aggravated Felony Drug Conviction and the U.S. Supreme Court Rulings
An aggravated felony is a drug offense that would be punishable as a felony under federal drug laws and carry a sentence of more than one year. That is the case even if an immigrant is convicted under state law, regardless of whether the state defines that particular drug crime as a felony or misdemeanor.
Even one drug-related conviction for an aggravated felony can make a noncitizen deportable, no matter the length of the sentence. Immigration laws contain its definition of an aggravated felony, and it’s best to consult experienced immigration and criminal defense attorney to see if you’ve committed this type of drug offense.
However, immigration consequences of this type of conviction include mandatory deportation. In addition, some types of relief are not available after an aggravated felony conviction, such as asylum, cancellation of removal proceedings, and re-applying for admission to the United States after deportation.
However, a drug conviction under state law can be challenged. For example, in Moncrieffe v. Holder, the U.S. Supreme Court decided “social sharing of a small amount of marijuana” by a legal immigrant does not constitute an aggravated felony, and because of that, doesn’t require mandatory deportation.
In Carachuri-Rosendo v. Holder, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the government’s position that any subsequent or second simple possession offense can automatically be considered a drug trafficking aggravated felony.
The Immigration Court of Atlanta is responsible for deciding immigration cases from the state of Georgia and other states of the southeastern United States. If you have been detained or received a notice to appear in Atlanta Immigration Court, hiring a good immigration attorney will enhance your chance of winning your drug case.
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Illegal Immigration Drug Trafficking Statistics
Under the United States Code, a controlled substance is any drug listed in any of the Controlled Substances Act drug schedules. These controlled substances include illegal narcotics such as cocaine and heroin, as well as some prescription medications such as sleeping pills and Vicodin.
Immigration consequences for convictions under state drug laws can be challenged because state offenses often include controlled substances that are not controlled by federal law. For example, possession of some substances may be an illegal state offense, but these substances may not be listed on one of the federal schedules.
However, drug crimes have to involve a controlled substance that is listed on a federal drug schedule in order to be an inadmissible or removable controlled substance offense. In addition, the government has to prove that the substance in question is actually listed on the federal schedule.
Any drug-related conviction and even drug use can have severe consequences on an individual’s immigration status. Even if you abuse drugs or plead no contest to or not guilty to a drug crime, you may face deportation from the United States, even in case you are sentenced to complete a drug treatment program.
Having a drug-related criminal conviction for an aggravated felony will bar an individual from immigrating to the United States. The laws regarding illegal drug crimes that deem a person inadmissible for immigration are very strict. If you need reliable Georgia immigration help, Manji Law is ready to assist you.
What Is an Immigration Pardon for Drug Conviction?
Immigration consequences are typically not removed unless the drug conviction is expunged or vacated. However, a severe procedural error that may have violated charged individual’s rights and completing drug diversion with no probation violation before July 2011 can lead to a drug conviction expungement.
There is another way to remove immigration consequences like the governor or presidential pardon, but a pardon is hard to obtain. Avoiding immigration consequences of drug crimes conviction would actually be much safer.
After being arrested for drug offenses, negative immigration consequences can also be avoided by getting the prosecutor to drop or the immigration judge to dismiss the drug charges. Accepting a plea agreement that involves less harsh immigration consequences or possible rather than mandatory deportation are also ways to avoid or minimize immigration consequences.
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How to Fight Immigration Consequences of Criminal Convictions for Drug Charges
If you are fighting deportation from the United States because of your drug offense conviction, the first and the most important step is to call an Atlanta deportation lawyer as soon as possible. You should let him or her know what’s going on and let them figure out what your next step is going to be. The defense strategies used will depend on your criminal record, how you’ve entered the country and the immigration status of your family members.
Fighting a removal order in an immigration court or appealing the order to the Board of Immigration Appeals may be some of your immigration attorney’s next steps. Your deportation lawyer may request cancellation of removal, file a waiver of inadmissibility, file for asylum, or file for withholding of removal.
Because of minor state drug offenses, some immigrants are subject to mandatory detention, deportation, and/or denial of lawful status. What this means for immigrants facing deportation varies on a case-by-case basis, so consulting a trusted deportation defense attorney is essential.
At Manji Law, we zealously fight for every client, ensuring that everyone gets the results they deserve. Jameel Manji is a relentless advocate for his clients in Atlanta, GA. If you decide to retain our law firm, you will have a powerful asset in your corner with loads of experience when fighting for your rights. We look forward to hearing from you and learning more about your case.
Atlanta Immigration Resources
- Atlanta Deportation Lawyer
- Atlanta Immigration Court
- Complete Guide to I-485
- Folkston ICE Processing Center
- Georgia Immigration
- Guide to I-765
- How Long Does it Take to Bring a Spouse to the USA?
- Immigration Attorney Atlanta
- Irwin County Detention Center
- Stewart Detention Center
- The Hidden Impact of ICE Deportation
Georgia Immigration Law Explained
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