Crime and Punishment in American Immigration

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In 1882, the same year that Robert Ford killed the famous outlaw Jesse James, the U.S. Congress passed a new Immigration Act that imposed a 50 cent tax upon immigrants to fund the cost of regulating immigration and gave federal authorities the power to deny entry to "convicts…lunatics and persons likely to become public charges."

On March 31, 2010, the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in the case of Padilla v. Kentucky, 599 U.S. ___ (2010), 130 S. Ct. 1473. Mr. Padilla, a lawful permanent resident of the United States for more than 40 years, had served in Vietnam with honor. However, he was charged with transporting marijuana in Kentucky. He claimed that his lawyer had told him that "he did not have to worry about immigration status since he had been in the country so long." 253 S.W. 3d 482, 483 (Ky. 2008.) Padilla claimed that he would not have pleaded guilty to the charges if he knew that such plea would make him removable (deportable).

The Court held that under the Sixth Amendment's effective-assistance-of-counsel guarantee, lawyers must provide affirmative, competent advice to noncitizen clients regarding the potential immigration consequences of a guilty plea. If a lawyer does not render accurate advice, noncitizens may be entitled to relief if they can show that the ineffective assistance of counsel was prejudicial.

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Published In: Constitutional Law Updates, Criminal Law Updates, Immigration Updates

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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