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Deportation is Not Automatic for All Crimes

Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court held, in the case of Moncrieffe V. Holder, that foreign nations cannot be deported for all crimes, but only for serious ones. The case involved a Jamaican citizen who had been in the U.S. legally for many years, but was convicted in Georgia of “possession with intent to distribute” a small amount of marijuana, enough for two or three “joints.” Moncrieffe pled guilty, but his plea agreement allowed the charge to be expunged if he complied with probation restrictions.

Two years later, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) began deportation proceedings against him as a result of the conviction. Because the government found his drug trafficking crimes to be “aggravated felonies,” there might not have been any relief available from deportation.

The Supreme Court held ruled that Mr. Moncrieffe should have had the opportunity to contest his deportation, allowing him to reenter the United States to demonstrate why he should be allowed to remain in the country.
Writing for the majority, Justice Sotomayor made clear that for the purposes of U.S. immigration law, a conviction that “fails to establish that the offense involved either remuneration or more than a small amount of marijuana” is not an “aggravated felony.” Justice Sotomayor was careful to note that one could still possibly be deported for a minor marijuana offense, but not because such a crime is necessarily an aggravated felony.

If you have concerns about whether a minor crime will affect your immigration status, contact one of our experienced immigration attorneys. We are located in Dupont Circle, and serve clients in Washington, DC, Maryland, Virginia, and nationwide.

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