Given the recent termination of the DACA program, it is understandable that even lawful non-citizens living in our country may be concerned about the security of their residency right now. If this is you, or you are concerned about your immigration status, hire an immigration attorney, and please educate yourself about what to do if ICE knocks on your door. Make sure that they have a warrant signed by a judge and that the warrant lists a specific person at that residence. Do not lie or present false documents if they force their way into your home.
If you or a loved one are a lawful non-citizen and find yourself charged with a crime, a good criminal defense lawyer is essential. The implications of a criminal conviction, even for a misdemeanor, even if the client is given supervision, can be catastrophic if the person looses their right to legally reside in our country. The laws regarding the loss of legal status were in place even before DACA was terminated. However, the concern is that some prosecutors may not realize the devastation a criminal conviction of any kind, no matter how minor, may have on a legal non-citizen’s status in or country. And there is always a concern that law enforcement may see an individual’s status as immigrant (or legal non-citizen) as permission to target those whom they believe do not have citizenship rights. If you are facing criminal prosecution and have not obtained citizenship in this country, please make sure your criminal defense attorney knows this very important fact. There are sometimes ways we can help you avoid the very serious consequence of losing residency, but we cannot help if we do not know there is an issue. It is also important to understand that possible resolutions for your case may depend on whether you have a visa or a green card and that sometimes the outcomes for those two types of cases do not make logical sense. Do not assume that because you have a green card your residency is more secure than if you have a visa or vice versa. It is also important to let your criminal defense lawyer know if you are not a lawful citizen of our country as a criminal conviction may adversely affect your ability to later apply for legal residency in our country. Again, your attorney cannot help you if he/she does not know all of the issues.
There are States, Illinois among them, who have sued the Federal Government over the cancellation of the DACA program. The basis of this lawsuit is that the program was ended for discriminatory purposes. How that will ultimately be resolved and whether Congress will pass legislation making it a non-issue is yet to be seen. The best way to protect yourself in this situation is again to know your rights.