On December 10, 2019, USCIS announced two policy changes affecting those with DUI convictions or other criminal convictions and the immigration benefits they might receive. The policy updates incorporate two recent decisions by the Attorney General: Matter of Thomas and Thompson and Matter of Castillo-Perez.
Under immigration law, criminal acts and convictions can have serious consequences. For example, certain criminal convictions may make an applicant inadmissible, deportable, and/or ineligible for immigration benefits. For example, before naturalizing, an alien must demonstrate good moral character as part of the application process. Criminal convictions can negatively affect the determination of good moral character.
Matter of Thomas and Thompson directly affects applicants who have sought post-conviction relief to ameliorate a conviction’s immigration consequences. In some states, aliens with criminal convictions are able to seek post-conviction relief in the forms of vacature, modification, clarification, or similar processes that previously would remove the underlying conviction for immigration purposes.
The Attorney General’s decision on October 25th found that now only post-sentencing orders based on procedural or substantive defects in the underlying proceedings will absolve the underlying conviction for immigration purposes. USCIS has now officially adopted this decision as a policy and will apply this update to any cases filed on pending on or after October 25, 2019.
Matter of Castillo-Perez also decided on October 25th, held that two or more DUI convictions establish a presumption that an alien lacks good moral character. Applicants may be able to overcome this presumption if they are able to provide substantial evidence that they possess good moral character during the period of time when the DUI offenses were committed. However, an alien’s efforts to reform or rehabilitate do not necessarily demonstrate good moral character during this period.
USCIS has also adopted Matter of Castillo-Perez. Notably, this policy will directly affect naturalization applicants who have more than one DUI conviction during the statutory periods on their records.
If you believe you or a loved one may be affected by these policy changes, schedule an appointment with our office today. We would be happy to review the matter over and help you understand your options. We have offices in Orange, Fresno, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bruno, California, as well as Orem and Salt Lake City, Utah, and Boise, Idaho.
Lauren M. Flores is an associate attorney at Orange Office of Wilner & O’Reilly, APLC. She is a native of Compton, CA and a proud daughter of an immigrant father. Her primary and secondary education took place in the neighborhoods of Huntington Park, South Central, and Boyle Heights—she has a special affinity for these communities. She graduated from Brigham Young University where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism with Minors in Spanish, Editing, and International Development. She received her Juris Doctor from the J. Reuben Clark Law School at Brigham Young University. During her time in law school, she served as an associate editor, lead editor, and finally executive editor for the Brigham Young University Education and Law Journal. She is passionate about education and furthering the opportunities for inner city youth to have access to higher education.
Richard M. Wilner is a founding member of Wilner & O’Reilly, APLC and is Board Certified by the State Bar of California as a Specialist in Immigration and Nationality Law. He is admitted to practice law in the State of California and before the U.S. District Courts for the Central, Northern and Southern Districts of California, the Northern District of Texas, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court.Mr. Wilner has received the coveted Martindale-Hubbell AV Rating, the highest legal and ethical rating that one can receive from one’s peers in the legal community. Similarly, he has been awarded the title of Super Lawyer from 2007 to the present. He is best known for his work in advising Fortune 500 companies, middle and small market businesses, entrepreneurs and foreign nationals of extraordinary ability in athletics, arts, and sciences in the complex area of U.S. Immigration and Nationality Law.