If you’ve been charged with a DWI and you’re worried about possible deportation or a change in your immigration status, you have reason to be fearful. While a simple driving while intoxicated (DWI) that occurs in Texas is not a crime that automatically results in deportation for a Legal Permanent Resident (or commonly referred to as a green card holder), it can make it very difficult to become a naturalized U.S. citizen, and it will put a permanent mark on your criminal record. The reason your odds of becoming a citizen after a DWI conviction could be slim is because “good moral character” is a requirement for U.S. citizenship.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to how a DWI affects immigration status, but in general, a simple DUI in Texas is not a deportable offense. If you are in the U.S. legally, a simple/single DUI conviction on its own will not result in deportation. The crimes that are deportable offenses are listed in the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act.
Deportable crimes can include:
- Crimes involving moral turpitude (or, those which involve dishonesty, fraud, or antisocial behaviors that harm others – see more below)
- Aggravated felonies (such as murder, rape, kidnapping, and white collar crimes)
- Controlled substances (drugs) crimes
- Crimes involving child neglect (this may include being convicted of a DWI when a child was in the car)
Will I Be Held in Immigration Detention and Potentially Deported for a DWI Conviction?
In Texas, you can be placed in removal or commonly referred to as deportation proceedings, which the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) defines as crimes of moral turpitude and certain DWI convictions may carry more harsh immigration consequences of being placed in removal proceedings, these may include multiple DWI’s such as if USCIS or immigration court proceedings deems an individual to be an habitual drunkard which can be a deportable offense, or if a child is placed in danger or neglect with a DWI.
Depending on your immigration status, penalties vary. For example, if someone is placed in removal proceedings then a DWI may mean in some circumstances no bond is given and thus you are unable to be released from immigration detention should the immigration judge determine that person to be a danger to the community.
If I Am Convicted for DWI, Can I Still Apply for U.S. Citizenship?
Even if you are in the U.S. legally and have lawful permanent resident status (a green card), you could be rejected for naturalization (citizenship) after a DWI offense. This is because a DWI conviction is said to reflect on your moral character.
If I Have a Temporary Visa Such as a Student Visa, Can a DWI Affect my Status?
For instance, if you are on a student visa, it’s likely the visa can be discretionarily revoked, and it is important to consult with an immigration attorney immediately if this occurs.
If you’ve been arrested for a DWI and you are not a U.S. citizen, it’s important to set up a consultation with a skilled Houston immigration attorney to discuss your criminal history and cover the details of what your next steps should be. If you’re thinking about pleading guilty, talk to an immigration lawyer first.
Do you need a deportation defense lawyer in Houston? Contact us at The Modi Law Firm, PLLC to schedule a free consultation if you have been threatened with deportation for any reason. Call (832) 514-4030.