You are a citizen of another country, but you live in the United States legally.
You possess a Green Card, which is your ticket to potentially permanent resident status. But to ensure that you can remain in this country, you have to behave yourself. You cannot commit crimes, because U.S. law treats non-citizens the same as it treats citizens. You can be prosecuted and, if convicted, held in jail, or sent to prison.
Or, you can be deported, sent packing to your home country, the place where you maintain your citizenship.
How does an immigrant become the subject of deportation?
There’s a provision in U.S. and state laws called “moral turpitude,” which isn’t clearly defined. According to the U.S. State Department, crimes of moral turpitude can include “fraud, larceny and intent to harm persons or things.”
That’s not all. Other crimes might involve assault with intent to kill someone, spousal abuse and driving while intoxicated or under the influence of illegal drugs.
That involves more serious crimes, categorized as felonies. So-called “petty” crimes can be exempted from the moral turpitude provision under immigration law. Those crimes involve shoplifting and petty assault. Some guy picks a fight with someone else and doesn’t brandish a weapon – such as a knife or a firearm – would fall into that category.
So, how does an immigrant face deportation proceedings if he or she commits a crime of moral turpitude? The individual needs to have committed a crime of moral turpitude within the first five years after being granted permission to enter the United States; or if you commit two unrelated crimes of moral turpitude at any time after entering the United States.
It’s complicated. Indeed, nothing involving immigration law never is simple.
Just one rule of thumb should apply to all residents of this country – be they American citizens or immigrants who are here legally: Mind your Ps and Qs.