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It Is Best NOT to Contact a Federal Office to Determine your Client’s Citizenship Status

Interviewer: For instance, should they contact the Office of Homeland Security or should they call ICE?

Ron: They certainly don’t want to reach out to immigration authorities to determine what their client’s legal status is. This is because there is the potential for removal. In contacting a federal office, the criminal defense attorney may, in fact, be shooting up some type of a flare, notifying the immigration authorities that this particular person is in an undocumented status. Presumably, they’d have to give a name or an alien number, and you don’t want to give that information to those types of authorities.

Interviewer: So it sounds like it’s very hard to corroborate any of this without causing further problems.

Ron: Well, I think most criminal defense attorneys would say that they get 90% of the information from their clients, assuming that they’re not dealing with juveniles. Most defendants don’t have a reason to lie with respect to their status here in the country to their criminal defense attorney or immigration attorney.

Advice for the Defense Attorney: Some Clients Are Unaware of Their Citizenship Status

It is possible that they may not understand whether or not he or she is a U.S. citizen,  such as in the cases that I just explained. Somebody that’s under the age of 18, if their parents have naturalized, by operation of law, they’ve naturalized. They may not understand the fact that having a U.S. passport makes them a U.S. citizen. So it is difficult.

The Defense Attorney Must Analyze the Consequences of a Plea Bargain and a Conviction for the Client

Citizenship Status of The Client

So one of the other factors we were focusing on is we have to make sure that the criminal defense attorney takes a look at each significant criminal event. By that I mean, each offense, the plea, the sentence, all of those factors have to be examined to determine what, if any, immigration damage may ensue by a conviction.

Most of the adverse immigration consequences of crime are triggered upon what’s known as a conviction. There are a relatively small number of immigration consequences that are triggered by criminal conduct, even if no conviction results.

To Determine a Client’s Citizenship Status, Ask the Following Questions

Interviewer: The question that is coming to my mind is this: if I’m reading this book and I’m an attorney, you are advising me to ask my client about their immigration status. I ask them but what if they’re lying or what if they don’t know even what they’re saying? How do I corroborate this? Or are you trying to tell people, “You’ve got to corroborate everything, but it’s so tricky, so you’d better just call an crimmigration attorney?”

Ron: You’ve got to start with your client and there’s no reason in the world why your client would lie to their criminal defense attorney about their immigration status.

Interviewer: I imagine they are scared and they probably DO lie sometimes. If I was scared, I might lie to everybody!

Ron: But then there are other options. I can ask you for a green card. I can ask you where you were born. Because once I discover you weren’t born in the United States, that should trigger a red flag and I think, “Okay. This person is probably not a U.S. citizen.”

So, if they tell me they were born abroad, my next question is, “Okay. Do you have a green card?” If they say no, “Do you have any type of visa, any work authorization?” If they say no, I know that they’re undocumented.

Determine a Client's Citizenship


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