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Criminal Justice and Immigration in Florida

When an immigrant breaks the law, they could face criminal penalties and lose immigration status. Keep reading to learn more.

Immigration Enforcement

Department of Homeland Security

In general, immigration is under federal jurisdiction which means federal agencies like the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services are responsible for oversight of laws regarding the immigration system and granting immigration status. The Department of Homeland Security is responsible for protecting the United States from international threats from the borders or other nations. Within the Department of Homeland Security is Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

ICE is the law enforcement arm of the DHS border safety program. The agency is responsible for investigating threats and detaining suspected operatives on American soil. Additionally, ICE officers patrol the borders and partners with local law enforcement to protect communities near the border and the nation.

Florida Law Enforcement and Legislation

In Florida, local police forces and state officials work with ICE, the DHS, and federal policy. While states can create their own rules around immigration, only the federal government can grant immigration status or deport those found guilty of criminal activity or who pose a threat to national security.

The state can enact statutes that expand or limit local law enforcement participation in immigration cases and create specific guidelines for licensing and education. For example, Florida requires immigrants to bring proof of entry and citizenship or lawful residency when applying for a driver’s license. Additionally, children of undocumented migrants do not pay in-state tuition fees for state schools and instead must pay a higher amount similar to the out-of-state tuition rate.

However, regardless of the limitations of state governments in immigration cases, criminal accusations for offenses can impact a person’s immigration status. Once local police have filed charges, the accused could be turned over to federal agents.

Criminal Records

Criminal records can impact immigration at either end of the system: admission or deportation. If a migrant has a criminal record from their country of origin, they may be inadmissible to the United States.

Admission

Inadmissibility is based on several grounds:

  • Health: If a migrant has an infectious or communicable disease that is considered a threat to public health, they may be inadmissible until they undergo an exam or treatment to remove the grounds for inadmissibility.
  • Criminal History: Migrants who have been convicted of, admit to committing, or admit to conspiracy or involvement in certain crimes may be inadmissible. Crimes that lead to inadmissibility include crimes involving moral turpitude (fraud, murder, rape, arson, robbery, and theft), drug offenses, multiple convictions, drug trafficking, prostitution, human trafficking, and money laundering.
  • Security: Migrants who pose a threat to national security are not admissible. In other words, those involved with terrorism, espionage, genocide, and extremist groups are deemed dangerous by the federal government.
  • Public Charge: If a migrant has no money or the inability to establish a life within the U.S. without substantial government assistance, they are inadmissible.
  • Unlawful Entry: Migrants who have attempted to enter the United States unlawfully or attempt to lie about their status are generally inadmissible.
  • Foreign Nationals Previously Removed: If a migrant has already been removed/deported, they cannot reenter the United States.

Deportation

Migrants living in the U.S. must abide by the law and immigration requirements. An individual may face deportation or removal proceedings if they break the law or fail to provide adequate documentation for immigration status and citizenship.

If immigrants commit any of the crimes that are grounds for inadmissibility, they could be deported. Additionally, those who attempt to defraud the immigration system or live illegally within the country could also face removal.

Criminal Investigations

Understandably, criminal investigations often cause immigrants to fear for their status. Their fears are not unfounded because while an investigation is not a conviction, under some immigration distinctions, accusations could be enough to justify an investigation by ICE.

However, it is important to recognize that the period between an arrest and trial/deportation is a valuable time to seek legal protection against removal. Criminal charges are not enough to deport someone. The court must convict them and then the removal proceedings may begin.

If you have been convicted of a crime and are facing removal/deportation in Florida, contact The Hoffman Firm.

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