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Immigrant Defendant Checklist

An immigrant defendant charged with a crime should consult with an immigration attorney before making any decisions in the case. The noncitizen's criminal defense attorney or public defender should also work with the attorney. To guide that process, Scott Mossman has prepared the following Checklist for Immigrant Defendants:

  • Do not tell the police or immigration (ICE) where you were born or what your immigration status is, unless you were a U.S. citizen on the date of the crime.

  • Ask to talk to a lawyer immediately. Tell your lawyer or public defender that you are not a U.S. citizen (or you were not a citizen on the date of the crime).

  • Get answers to the following questions before you decide what to do in your case:
    • If I am undocumented, am I eligible to apply for any type of immigration status? Is there anything in my history that might stop me from getting status?

    • Will the result in my criminal case make me ineligible to apply for a visa or immigration status?

    • Will the result in my criminal case make me ineligible to renew the visa or temporary status (DACA, TPS, etc.) that I already have?

    • Will the result in my case make me subject to removal (deportation)? Does that depend on whether I stay in the United States or travel abroad?

    • If I am subject to removal:
      • Will ICE be informed of my release from jail? Is ICE likely to make a special effort to find me if I am not in jail?

      • Will I have any chance of keeping or getting immigration status in removal proceedings? How difficult will that be?

      • Will I be subject to mandatory detention (no release on bond) while I fight my removal?

    • If I am a permanent resident (have a green card), would the result in my criminal case make me ineligible for naturalization? For how long?

    • Would the result in my criminal case make me ineligible to petition for the immigration of my fiance, spouse, child, parent or sibling? (This consequence can apply even if you are already a U.S. citizen.)
  • If the result in your criminal case was good for immigration purposes, make sure you get the court documents you will need to prove that result.

  • Check with an immigration lawyer to find out whether the law has changed before traveling outside of the United States or applying for an immigration benefit.

Download a PDF version of the Checklist for Immigrant Defendants

For more information about how having an immigration attorney on your criminal defense team can help, visit