Undocumented immigrants with old crimes and deportation orders may still be able to remain in the United States. They just need to seek the right kind of help, immigrant rights attorneys say.
“This is not the time to be on your own,” said Jorge-Mario Cabrera, a spokesman for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, a Los Angeles-based organization that provides services across Southern California.
Receiving legal consultation, though it may be costly, is necessary, Cabrera added.
Unauthorized immigrants with deportation orders could qualify for some sort of immigration relief, and those with prior crimes may be able to have a criminal conviction vacated to avoid immigration consequences.
And attorneys can help navigate these scenarios.
Hadley Bajramovic, an immigration attorney serving the Mexican and Guatemalan consulates in San Bernardino, said her office has been dealing with immigrants under these circumstances.
A California law that took effect January could help undocumented immigrants with previous crimes, Bajramovic noted.
In immigration cases, it allows people who are no longer in jail or prison to file a motion to vacate their criminal convictions.
For example, a conviction or sentence can be legally invalid if, due to poor legal representation, a defendant did not fully understand the immigration consequences of accepting a guilty plea, according to the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, a national nonprofit agency that co-sponsored this law.
A conviction also can be vacated if new evidence emerges that proves a person’s innocence.
Bajramovic said her office filed a motion about three weeks ago and found the judge was not yet familiar with this new law.
“It is very, very new and it’s going to develop quickly, given that more people are going to go into removal proceedings,” she said.
Recently released Department of Homeland Security memos spell out that any immigrant living in the U.S. illegally who has been charged or convicted of any…