Immigrants who drink and drive risk deportation


We are all aware of the dangers of drinking and driving. Every year, more than 10,000 people are killed in accidents caused by drunk drivers. People convicted of drunk driving face criminal penalties, jail time and fines. They may also lose their cars through civil forfeiture.

Immigrants arrested for alcohol-related driving infractions face particularly serious consequences.

A number of years ago I was representing a successful business owner who was applying to become a permanent resident under the NACARA program for Salvadoran refugees. He had lived in the United States for more than a decade, was married to a permanent resident, and he had two children who were United States citizens. He was in the last phase of his application for a green card when he was arrested for drunk driving. Since it was the second time he had been arrested for this, he was facing felony charges. The immigration officer handling the case contacted me to tell me of the arrest and told me that if he was convicted his application would be denied because he could not show that he had Good Moral Character.

For many immigration applications, the immigrant must demonstrate that he possesses Good Moral Character. This is not just true for those who applied for NACARA. It is also a requirement for citizenship applicants. While a single conviction will generally not stop someone with a green card from becoming a citizen, the Department of Homeland Security will not approve a citizenship application if the immigrant is on probation at the time of the Naturalization Interview or if the immigrant has multiple convictions for Driving While Intoxicated (DWI).

The impact of a drunk driving conviction will vary depending on the immigrant’s status and the type of conviction. While a single Driving Under the Influence (DUI) conviction will not get a permanent resident deported, it might lead to the loss of the work permit for someone with DACA.

DACA applicants with even one DUI conviction will be denied a work permit and may be placed in removal proceedings for deportation. Those who have DACA and are convicted of DUI may find their DACA permit revoked. They will certainly not be allowed to renew it.

The DAPA program, which we are hoping will start in July if the Supreme Court rules in its favor, bars anyone with a DUI or DWI from applying.

The takeaway is that immigrants should never drink and drive.

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