This is probably one of the most common questions I get as an immigration attorney. The answer is yes. How it will affect your case? It Depends. Under immigration law, certain crimes have automatic consequences of law. If you are charged with a drug offense, you cannot get bail if you are in immigration custody. If you are a permanent resident and you are convicted of domestic violence, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement may initiate deportation proceedings. Here are two examples.
A conviction in Michigan for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI) or operate a vehicle drunk driving (OWI), does not have automatic consequences under immigration law, but still and can affect your case.
Many types of immigration cases (but not all) require that the immigration officer to use his own discretion to make a decision on your case. That means the agent can take into account the general aspects of your case to decide whether to grant the requested benefit. Are you a good person? Are you a danger to society? Have you repeatedly committed crimes? Do you assume responsibility for your actions?
It is almost certain that a DUI conviction on your criminal record will be considered a negative factor if your case depends on the discretion of the agent. Here are some cases where it may affect have a DUI charge:
Deferred action for people who entered the country as children, The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said you will not be eligible for deferred action if you have a DUI conviction.
Bond – When you are stopped by immigration and ask the judge to post a bond, the immigration judge will consider your DUI. Currently, in immigration court in Detroit, judges are taking very seriously DUI convictions. There has been a recent trend to deny bail to people who have only a DUI conviction.
Citizenship – when you apply for citizenship, officials of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will check your criminal record over the past five years to determine if you have an “unimpeachable character”. If you have had a DUI in the last five years, they could decide that you do not have an “unblemished character.”
Exemptions – when you apply for a provisional unlawful presence waiver, USCIS weighs both negative factors such as if family would face difficulties in your absence. If you have one or more DUI convictions, you must prove that your family will face additional difficulties in the country to win approval of an exemption.
Remember, the discretion of the agent is not a factor in all immigration cases. Moreover, even if you have a DUI, there are other ways to circumvent it and prove to immigration that deserve to win your case. You should consult a lawyer specializing in criminal law experience before pleading guilty to a DUI charge. You should also talk with an immigration attorney with experience if you already have a DUI conviction, to find out how it can affect your current or future immigration case.