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Criminal Convictions Can Have Unforeseen Consequences

A recent New Jersey case illustrates the potential difficulties that recent immigrants to the United States face after a criminal conviction.

The New Jersey office of Democratic Senator Robert Menendez employed Luis Abrahan Sanchez Zavaleta, an 18-year-old immigrant from Peru, as an unpaid intern. Sanchez was arrested in early December by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents after Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials learned that he had not only over stayed his visitor visa, but had been convicted of a crime in 2010 and required to register as a sex offender. According to Menendez, his office staff ask potential interns whether they are in the country legally, but they are unable to check to confirm a person's answers.

Because Sanchez was a juvenile at the time of his conviction, records regarding his conviction are not available to the public. Prosecutors confirmed his conviction and registration as a sex offender, though his name did not appear in the public registry. Sanchez is now being held in jail pending his deportation hearing.

Criminal Convictions Can Affect Immigration Status

Though this particular case is unique, it illustrates the potential difficulties that immigrants face when convicted of a crime. Indeed, many people may not realize it, but if you are not a United States citizen, any contact you have with law enforcement can potentially affect your immigration status. Arrests for any crime can, in fact, hurt your chances of getting a work visa, citizenship or permanent residence.

If you are convicted of a crime or plead guilty to a crime, the results can be serious. A conviction can result in:

  • Denial of an application for citizenship or permanent residency
  • Deportation
  • Detention while deportation hearing is ongoing
  • Long-term or permanent revocation of ability to return to the United States

This is true even if you are convicted of a misdemeanor, receive probation, if you have lived in the United States for an extended period, or if your entire family lives in this country.

Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney

If you or someone you love has been charged with a crime, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. A knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer can assess your case, explain the potential effects of a conviction or plea deal, and help you protect your rights. For more information about what a criminal defense attorney can do for you, contact a lawyer today.


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