Bastarrika, Soto, Gonzalez & Somohano, L.L.P.

State's criminal law changes may affect immigration issues

Any number of issues can negatively affect a New Jersey immigrant's legal status. Visa expiration, lack of proper documentation and criminal convictions are several of the most common issues that prompt complications in an immigrant's ability to remain in the United States. A recent criminal law change in another state has come as good news for many immigrants; immigrant advocates say the change affects the automatic removal proceedings system in place under federal immigration law.

Immigrants convicted of a misdemeanor with a possible sentence of at least one year in jail are automatically placed in line for deportation proceedings under federal law. In this particular state the law was changed for Class A misdemeanors to specify a maximum sentence of just 364 days. The law is known as the "One Day Act," and it means that deportation proceedings are no longer automatically activated under such circumstances. While the proceedings could still take place, the automatic trigger has been removed as a result of the change in the law.

The head of the Conservative Party in New York, where the recent changes took place, says that state officials should leave immigration law to the federal government rather than trying to impact the immigration system by changing criminal laws. However, an immigrant advocate countered those remarks by saying that needed immigration law reform has been so slow in coming at the federal level, so it is right for officials to make state-level changes in other areas that can perhaps indirectly help immigrants. A state representative who sponsored the bill said she believes it will help approximately 9,000 immigrants remain in the United States each year.

Immigration law is just as complex in New Jersey as it is throughout the country.  Situations where immigration and criminal laws intersect can be particularly challenging. While it is true that all matters of immigration fall under federal jurisdiction, any man or woman facing legal complications in this state may turn to an experienced immigration attorney for guidance and support. This type of advocacy is often a means to securing a positive outcome, even in cases that are especially challenging.

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