Dreamers Preparing for Deferred Action: What To Do If You Have a Criminal Record

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This is the third installment in a series of articles written to help Dreamers get ready for the new deferred action program. Scroll down for more articles.

If you’ve been convicted of certain crimes, you may be disqualified from applying for the new program for Dreamers announced by President Obama last month.

Anyone convicted of committing a felony is barred from qualifying for this program. A person who is convicted of a “significant misdemeanor” is also ineligible. A significant misdemeanor includes such crimes as domestic violence, sexual assault, other crimes of violence, burglary, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and drug offenses, among others. Persons convicted of other misdemeanors may be granted deferred action, so long as they have not been convicted of more than two misdemeanors. Generally, a misdemeanor is a crime for which a person could receive no more than one year in jail. If a person is convicted of more than two misdemeanors, but all of the convictions came from the same incident, then the person may still be able to apply.

Sounds tough to understand? It is. That’s why I tell people that if you’ve ever been arrested, you should use an organization like CARECEN or Catholic Charities or a private attorney to file your application under this program. A lawyer can review your record of convictions and help you decide whether to apply or not. If you apply and are denied because of a criminal conviction, your case may be sent to the immigration courts to begin the process of your deportation.

Even though you will need a lawyer to apply if you have been arrested, here is something you need to do on your own first: Obtain a “certificate of disposition” for every time you have been arrested or summoned to court. The certificate of disposition will indicate when you were arrested, when you went to court, whether you were convicted or not, what you were charged with and convicted of, and what your punishment was, if any. You can get the certificate of disposition by going to the court and, in New York State, paying a $5 fee.

Sometimes people lie about their name when they get arrested. They think they are safe from discovery, but when they apply for an immigration benefit they are fingerprinted and their secret is found out. If you were ever arrested under a false name make sure to let your lawyer know about that when you are filling out your application.

Still confused?

CARECEN is offering free workshops explaining the new program for Dreamers. Our next workshop is at our Hempstead office on Tuesday, July 16, at 5pm (91 N. Franklin Street, Suite 208, Hempstead, 516-489-8330). A free workshop will also be held on Monday, July 23 at 5pm (2000 Brentwood Road, Brentwood, second floor). Call 631-273-8721 for more information.

For more posts in this series, click here.


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