Bye, Bye Bieber: Canadian Pop-Star of “Extraordinary Ability” Could be in Extraordinary Trouble with U.S. Immigration Law

Famed teen heart throb, Justin Bieber, is in trouble . . . again. On January 23, 2014, Bieber was arrested in Miami Beach, Florida, and charged with a DUI, resisting arrest, and driving with an expired driver’s license. According to reports, Bieber and fellow recording star, Khalil, were drag racing on a residential street in Miami Beach when police placed both men under arrest. Khalil, a California native, will face the consequences of a DUI—typically a fine, alcohol awareness classes, and perhaps jail time. But Bieber’s troubles are compounded by the fact that he is not an American citizen. Bieber is from Toronto, Ontario, and is reportedly present in the United States on an O-1 visa, a temporary visa available to foreign nationals who have demonstrated “extraordinary ability” in the sciences, education, business, athletics, the arts, or in the motion picture or television industries. Criminal conduct can potentially jeopardize a person’s ability to remain—or return—to the United States. Under U.S. immigration law, some crimes can result in deportation, while others may make it impossible to re-enter the country or become a permanent resident.

While Bieber’s arrest in Miami Beach is not likely to place him in deportation proceedings, his criminal past could catch up with him. Bieber needs to be particularly concerned about an arrest in Calabasas, California, earlier in January. The Los Angeles Times has reported that following a complaint by a neighbor who claimed that Bieber egged his house, causing $20,000 in damage, Los Angeles County police conducted a warrant search of Bieber’s home. Officials with the sheriff’s department stated that drugs were found during the search of his home. A drug conviction is a serious problem for any non-citizen. Under Section 237 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”), any non-citizen convicted of a controlled substance violation, other than a single offense of possession of 30g or less of marijuana for one’s own personal use, is deportable. If enough drugs were found to give officials reason to believe that the Canadian heart throb is engaged in drug trafficking, he could face permanent removal from the United States without the possibility of ever returning. Under INA § 212(a)(2)(C)(i), any noncitizen whom an immigration officer knows or “has reason to believe” is a drug trafficker, is ineligible for admission to the United States or for permanent residence. A conviction is not necessary to meet this standard and unlike some other criminal offenses, there is no waiver available.

In addition to the DUI in Miami Beach, Bieber was also charged with resisting arrest “without violence” under Fla. Stat. § 843.02. Lucky for him, because a Florida conviction for resisting arrest with violence (Fla. Stat. § 843.01) is a deportable offense if committed by a nonimmigrant, such as Bieber, within five years of admission because it is considered a “crime involving moral turpitude.” See Manuel Cano v. U.S. Attorney General, No. 11-15918, (11th Cir. Feb. 15, 2013). According to the arrest report, Bieber’s conduct skated the edge of violent behavior and but for the restrain of the arresting officer, Bieber could have been charged with a crime involving moral turpitude and possible deportation proceedings.

So, though American teens may hang life sized posters on their walls of this Canadian “of extraordinary ability,” Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials may be posting mug shots of the pop star, whose behavior is heading dangerously close to a one-way ticket back home.