For non-citizens, a criminal conviction can have dire consequences. A conviction of any kind can directly impact a non-citizen’s ability to naturalize years after a mistake, even resulting in additional detention time after completing a sentence and removal from the country without consideration of family and lives left behind.
Criminal defense attorneys have an ethical duty to non-citizen clients to provide accurate advice regarding the consequences of a criminal disposition on immigration status. However, as any lawyer in a position of providing such advice can attest, trying to navigate the maze of immigration law and its odd terms of art alongside Virginia criminal statutes can leave your head spinning. Attorneys may be facing questions like: How do I know if my client is not a citizen? What in the world is a “crime involving moral turpitude”? What kind of consequences are we talking about here, immediate or long term? Are terms like “conviction” and “sentence” the same in immigration and criminal law?
To help alleviate the trepidation a young lawyer might encounter when trying to navigate the complex intersection between criminal and immigration law, the YLC Immigrant Outreach Committee (IOC) teamed up with the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights (CAIR) Coalition to offer annual “crimmigration” programming that provides the legal community with up to date guidance on the immigration consequences of criminal dispositions in Virginia.
Over the past several years, this program has proved extremely valuable to the legal community by providing Virginia specific education as it pertains to federal immigration law, which can be hard to find in other states. However, the IOC recognized that programming has been limited geographically to northern Virginia due to the location of program faculty and preference for in-person instruction.
Adapting to COVID restrictions, the IOC moved the popular crimmigration program online. Despite the loss of in-person instruction and the challenges that virtual programming presents, over 200 attendees participated this fall, and a very active question box kept the program interactive and discussion lively. The IOC is proud that the programming was successfully accessible to more Virginia attorneys than ever before. The incredibly knowledgeable program faculty, Adina Appelbaum, Program Director, Immigration Impact Lab for CAIR Coalition, engaged participants with helpful practice tips. Adina made complex content palatable through hypotheticals and concise answers to participants’ questions. Attendees provided positive feedback about the content as well as the need for this type of training and the ability to access it online. Attendees ranged from criminal defense attorneys, prosecutors and immigration practitioners, to those who do pro bono cases or have never represented an immigrant client. This mix of participants encouraged discussion and questions from various perspectives, adding valuable interaction despite the online format.
As the IOC continues to make this programming available, we hope to see the continuation of both in-person and interactive online instruction that makes this content available for lawyers new to the subject matter across Virginia. If you have any suggestions for instructional topics in the immigration practice area, please reach out to the IOC Co-Chairs, Marisa Santana at firstname.lastname@example.org and Samantha Davis at email@example.com. Please also keep an eye out for future IOC pro bono opportunities, such as participation in Naturalization Workshops co-sponsored with Hogar Immigration Services.
Marisa Santana and Samantha Davis are Co-Chairs of the YLC’s Immigrant Outreach Committee.