§ 2.3 A. Summary
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A criminal conviction and sentence can trigger the following types of damage to a defendant who is a foreign national:
Mandatory immigration detention.
Expense of immigration bond and immigration counsel.
Loss of right to live in United States.
Loss of right to enter United States.
Loss of eligibility for United States citizenship.
Loss of home, job, friends, and family.
Innocent family’s loss of spouse, parent, or country.
Anxiety and emotional distress.
Unfairness of inflicting this damage without advance notice.
Permanence of the damage.
Substantial federal prison sentences for illegal re-entry after removal.
Immigration effects often more important than criminal sentences.
Another way to look at this is that the client’s continued ability to live in the United States is a million-dollar benefit. (Many undocumented clients can sooner or later get their papers, if we arrange a criminal disposition that does not disqualify them from doing so.) The client can earn $40,000 per year here, but not in Mexico. Clients with a working life expectancy of 30 years will earn over $1,000,000 here that they will not earn if deported. The family tragedy is in addition to the economic disaster. The client stands to lose a million-dollar benefit, for example, by entering a plea to the wrong count, or obtaining a 365-day sentence (even a suspended one), instead of a 364-day sentence.
Because this damage occurs after we have said goodbye to the client, we may be completely unaware that the plea we arranged destroyed the client’s life. The following description of how this damage occurs will show in more detail the harsh immigration process to which all foreign national defendants – but not United States citizens – are subject, in case you want to learn more about this subject. If you get the picture, just skip to § 2.15, infra, to learn why we are often the last line of defense the client has against this disaster, and why it is difficult or impossible for the client to recover from a mistaken plea.