For those who live in Michigan or other states as foreign nationals — either as green card holders, under a visa program or those living in the country without legal permission — deportation may be the issue most frequently on their minds. Violating immigration or criminal laws of the United States can lead to deportation. What is surprising to many foreign nationals is that criminal law violations potentially come with additional consequences for immigrants, even for some offenses that are otherwise considered relatively minor.

In most states, the criminal codes divide offenses into two categories: felonies and misdemeanors. Misdemeanors are lesser crimes that carry relatively short or no jail sentences, but felonies are serious and often violent crimes that may result in lengthy prison terms. However, for someone who is an immigrant, the situation is far more complex.

Some crimes can make an immigrant deportable. These include human trafficking, child abuse, domestic violence and others. It may seem obvious that these violent crimes would result in removal from the country. However, even less severe offenses may place one’s immigration status in jeopardy. These are aggravated felonies, such as theft and failing to appear for a court hearing.

Immigration law has another special category called crimes of moral turpitude. These offenses are said to breach the trust of the country and its citizens because of the individual’s dishonesty. Some examples are perjury, embezzlement and fraud.

Dealing with any criminal offense can be especially complicated for those who are immigrants. The consequences of a conviction, including the risk of deportation, are not always predictable, and there is usually a great deal at stake. Having experienced legal counsel from the earliest encounter with Michigan law enforcement is a wise decision.