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Criminal convictions can mean deportation for green card holders

As immigration law is complex and is often in a state of flux, it is very important for South Carolina residents to feel confident that they are receiving accurate information, especially when it can have serious, real-life consequences, such as deportation, also known as removal.

One man found this truth out the hard way. He is a native of Honduras and a lawful permanent resident of the United States (green card holder). He has served in the U.S. military and is a Vietnam War veteran.

However, more recently he has had some trouble with the law. While he was driving a truck across the country, he was stopped by law enforcement officials. They claim to have uncovered 1,000 pounds of marijuana in his truck.

He was arrested and agreed to a guilty plea along with a five-year prison sentence for drug trafficking. This was done in order to avoid the maximum 10-year sentence, even though he had available defenses.

In discussing whether to accept the plea bargain, his attorney apparently told him he would not be deported. However, a conviction for drug trafficking is grounds for deportation, even for green card holders who have lived in the U.S. for years.

As a result of his guilty plea, he is now up for removal to Honduras. Deportation to his home country will obviously take him away from his family living in the United States. He says that he would much rather have risked the chance of a conviction in prison than be deported away from his family.

As a result of a series of appeals, this man has obtained a new trial because the judges were convinced that he was not properly informed of the risk of possible deportation when making the decision to accept the plea deal. In fact, the evidence was clear that had this man been properly informed that by pleading guilty he might face deportation, he would have insisted on going to trial to defend against the charges.

Now he will have a second chance to defend against those charges in order to avoid a conviction and deportation. If he is convicted this time around, he will need extremely knowledgeable immigration law counsel to have any hope of remaining in the United States.

Source: Fox News Latino, "Man Gets New Trial Because Lawyer Gave Wrong Advice About Deportation Risk," Oct. 1, 2012

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