Lawful Permanent Residents with Prior Convictions Should Exercise Caution Upon Re-entry to the U.S.
As U.S. borders continue to get tighter, it is vital that lawful permanent residents (LPRs) who have prior convictions or arrests or who ever participated in criminal activity understand the current risks at U.S. ports of entry. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has the authority to find an LPR inadmissible to the United States or to initiate removal (deportation) proceedings based upon a past conviction, arrest or admission of criminal activity.
Regarding admission of past criminal activity, LPRs should note that they can be detained or found inadmissible to the U.S. based solely upon admitting having committed the essential elements of a crime of moral turpitude or a violation of any law relating to a controlled substance. The LPR need not have been convicted or even arrested of such crime, but only admit to a CBP officer having committed the essential elements of a crime. (The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) at § 212(a)(2)(A)(i), provides that "any alien ... who admits having committed, or who admits committing acts which constitute the essential elements of ... a crime involving moral turpitude ... or an attempt or conspiracy to commit such a crime ... or a violation of any law ... relating to a controlled substance ... is inadmissible.")
Increased immigration control and scrutiny at U.S. ports of entry mean that even those LPRs who have never been stopped in the past may find themselves questioned, detained, and found inadmissible to or removable from the U.S. based on an old conviction or arrest or admission to having committed a crime for which there was no official arrest or conviction.
If an LPR plans to travel abroad and has prior convictions or arrests (or has committed a crime in the past that the LPR was not arrested or convicted of), we recommend that the LPR seek advice from immigration counsel before departing from the United States.