Criminal Defense of Immigrants


§ 15.17 3. Applying for Benefits

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Another way noncitizens may come in contact with immigration authorities is when they must apply for, or renew, an immigration benefit.  A common situation is where a lawful permanent resident’s green card has expired or is about to expire.  Generally the green card itself (not the LPR status) expires after 10 years (or two years for a conditional permanent resident). 


                An LPR generally needs a valid, unexpired green card in order to get a new job, and increasingly to obtain or renew a driver’s license.  Unfortunately, if the LPR has committed any deportable offenses, the immigration authorities are likely to discover this information in the renewal process and may place the LPR in removal proceedings.  More often, long-time permanent residents may become trapped because they cannot get a new job or driver’s license without a valid green card, but fear to apply for a new green card because they may be deportable.




USCIS and ICE issue new guidance on referring of cases to immigration proceedings and the issuance of NTAs in cases involving removable noncitizens. The USCIS memorandum outlines when the USCIS will issue an NTA (i.e. upon termination of conditional permanent residence), and when the USCIS must refer the case to USICE to determine whether an NTA should be issued (i.e. an N-400 application where the applicant has a criminal conviction). This memorandum goes into some detail on what to do when the N-400 applicant is eligible for naturalization but, at the same time, is subject to a criminal ground of removal. The USICE memorandum discusses the scope of the previously announced review of cases currently pending before the EOIR, but notes that the review process will be reviewed and possibly changed after Jan. 13, 2012. The USCIS guidance lists cases that are enforcement priorities for the DHS, including persons who are convicted of felonies, multiple misdemeanors, or misdemeanors involving violence, threats, sexual abuse, DUI, hit & run, drugs, or other significant threats to public safety. The guidance also lists low priority cases, including long-time LPRs with only a single non-violent offense, children, victims of domestic violence, DREAMers, persons who served in the U.S. military and others.