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Challenges to Aggravated Felony Charges

Challenges To Aggravated Felony Charges

Aggravated felonies, in the simplest sense, can mean anything. For non-citizens facing such aggravated felony charges, their conviction, based on the regulations surrounding the current Aggravated Felony Provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act, may be decided on as little as whether they initially came to the U.S. legally or illegally, or perhaps, if their public intoxication or drunk-driving misdemeanor charge is considered a "violent crime."

Due to the lack of a precise definition for the types of aggravated felonies listed under immigration law, a fairly large number of detainees facing felony charges will find that their seemingly minor offense has been left open to interpretation by strict immigration courts. While challenging felony charges brought against an illegal immigrant are not unheard of, and in fact, higher-court judges have quite often criticized the ambiguous nature of the law, in general aggravated felonies will have little defense against them.

Such gaps in the deportation system are at the forefront of human rights activists' debates. Many, including law officials, persistently lobby that clearer distinctions between crimes should be made and that greater consideration should be given to those who have already paid the appropriate dues for the mistakes of their past.

Although proponents of strict immigration and deportation policies will contest that the majority of aggravated felonies are accorded to deserving criminals which pose a very serious threat to the safety of America, the reality is that only 10% of alien detainees have been given felony charges based on violent crimes.

While that does not necessarily go to say that drug-related crimes, the most prevalent of all aggravated felonies in the prison system, are any less serious. The fact of the matter is that most "deportable" crimes are weighed far heavier than need be, and a long list of prior cases will affirm this.

For instance:

In 1989, a woman by the name of Xuan Wilson, who had lived in the U.S. since the age of four, was charged with writing a forged check at a Safeway supermarket. The value of the check was $19.83. In 2003, she was ordered to be deported back to Vietnam, her country of origin, leaving her husband, three children, and mother and father behind.

Also in 1989, Gerardo Mosquere was deported to Columbia despite having a green card for nearly 30 years for attempting to sell $10 worth of marijuana.

In 1997, Jesus Collado was detained after returning from a vacation in the Dominican Republic. Due to a statutory rape conviction decades earlier in 1974 when Collado was only 19 years old (he had consensual sex with his underage girlfriend), immigration laws stated that authorities had the right to deport him without a hearing.

In 2001, Alexander Christopher faced deportation based on petty shoplifting charges that deemed him an an "aggravated felon," even though his misdemeanor punishments had been completed years earlier.

In 2010, Qing Hong Wu faced similar deportation based on "criminal alien" felony charges for a series of muggings he was involved in as a youth over 15 years earlier.

Such examples are not meant to disregard the nature of the crimes committed, though. There are many illegal aliens, in fact, who have a very serious criminal history attached and should be liable to face aggravated felony charges if detained. The main challenges to the law, rather, are both in the lack of clarity in terms of aggravated felonies and in the specific conditions which define "criminal aliens."

NEXT: Impact of Aggravated Felonies

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