Those two crimes are treated the same, but they’re an aggravated felony regardless, and that can get you deported. Not only that, in most cases, you’re going to be subject to mandatory detention. Until your situation is resolved with the immigration judge, you will have to spend all that time in immigration detention and you will not be eligible for a bond because you are an aggravated felon in their eyes.
That’s why it’s so critical to not plead guilty to something, number one, of course, if you didn’t do it. But, two, in the whole process of plea bargaining, there may be something that the criminal lawyer could do like offer a plea of guilty to evading instead of evading by vehicle, which is not great. No criminal conviction is the best scenario but at least evading without by vehicle will not be the aggravated felony and result in your deportation.
Interviewer: What about tax evasion?
Jeanne Morales: That would probably fall under fraud. Someone who made an error on their taxes and corrected it is probably okay. But someone who actively had assets from the government and didn’t report all their income, that might be construed as a type of fraud which would end up being a crime involving moral turpitude.
Many Individuals Are Surprised to Learn That a Conviction for a Minor Crime Will Affect Their Legal Status
Interviewer: Would you say that pleading guilty to a crime they consider to be minor is one of the top misconceptions that people applying for legal status have?
Jeanne Morales: I would. The ones that are most surprised are the ones that either have a DWI or a small theft crime such as shoplifting or a small possession charge. They were arrested but they were able to get no-jail time and do a little probation reporting and they’re good to go.
I can see how they might think, “Okay, that’s not big a deal,” but then they go to renew their green card or sometimes these things come up when they’ve travelled abroad. They say they go visit friends in Mexico. As they’re re-entering the country, the green cards have a magnetic strip on them with information and when it’s processed by the reader, their record comes up.
We’ve had a number of people call us from the border because they’re being taken into custody even though they’re a legal permanent resident. This is because of an old conviction that came to light when they tried to cross the border.
Individuals Will Encounter Difficulties Regardless of Whether the Offense Occurred in the U.S. or Their Home Country
Interviewer: Is that a conviction on the U.S. side or the Mexican side?
Jeanne Morales: It doesn’t matter. As far as immigration law is concerned, it’s conviction wherever it happened. But most people, if it’s an old conviction, it usually comes to light when they are trying to go from green card to naturalized citizen.
They file some paperwork and they apply for an interview and then they are arrested for the assault conviction. Or, they’re crossing the border or coming back from visiting somebody. They go through Customs and that card is red, and the record comes up, then they’re subject to either denied entry or arrest right there at the border.