In recent years, the landscape of immigration policy in the United States has undergone significant changes. These changes have had a profound impact on immigrants with criminal convictions, who often face complex legal challenges and uncertainties. As an immigration and criminal defense attorney with extensive experience in New York and New Jersey, I will provide a comprehensive overview of the recent changes in immigration policy and their implications for immigrants with criminal backgrounds.

Understanding Key Terms

Before delving into the recent policy changes, it is crucial to establish a clear understanding of some key terms and concepts:

1. Citizenship

Citizenship is the legal status that grants an individual full membership in a country and affords them certain rights and privileges, such as the right to vote and work without restrictions.

2. Green Card (Permanent Resident Card)

A Green Card, formally known as a Permanent Resident Card, grants an individual lawful permanent resident status in the United States. Green cardholders are authorized to live and work in the country indefinitely.

3. Deportation

Deportation refers to the formal removal of an individual from the United States by immigration authorities due to violations of immigration laws or criminal convictions.

4. Relief from Deportation

Relief from deportation refers to legal mechanisms that allow immigrants facing removal proceedings to avoid deportation and maintain their legal status in the United States. There are several forms of relief available, each with specific eligibility criteria.

Recent Policy Changes

1. Priority Enforcement Program (PEP)

Under the Priority Enforcement Program, introduced in 2014, immigration authorities prioritize the removal of immigrants with significant criminal convictions. This policy shift increased cooperation between federal immigration agencies and local law enforcement, leading to more deportations of individuals with criminal records.

2. Changes to DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals)

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which provides temporary relief from deportation to undocumented individuals who arrived in the U.S. as children, has faced ongoing legal challenges and policy changes. These changes have created uncertainty for DACA recipients with criminal convictions, as eligibility criteria have become stricter.

3. Public Charge Rule

The Public Charge Rule, which took effect in February 2020, expanded the criteria for determining whether an immigrant is likely to become dependent on government assistance. Immigrants with certain criminal convictions may be more likely to be deemed a public charge and face barriers to obtaining a Green Card or other immigration benefits.

Types of Relief from Deportation

When immigrants with criminal convictions face deportation, they may explore various forms of relief to avoid removal. Here are some common types of relief:

1. Cancellation of Removal

Cancellation of removal is available to certain lawful permanent residents and undocumented immigrants who have been in the U.S. for a specified period and meet specific criteria. This relief prevents deportation and allows individuals to maintain their legal status.

2. Asylum and Withholding of Removal

Individuals who fear persecution in their home countries based on factors such as race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group may seek asylum or withholding of removal to avoid deportation.

3. U Visa

Immigrant crime victims who cooperate with law enforcement investigations may be eligible for a U visa, which provides temporary legal status and work authorization.


Recent changes in immigration policy have placed immigrants with criminal convictions in a more vulnerable position, with increased scrutiny and stricter eligibility criteria for relief from deportation. Navigating these changes requires a deep understanding of immigration law and an advocate who can provide expert guidance.

As an attorney with a focus on immigration and criminal defense in New York and New Jersey, I am committed to helping immigrants facing deportation due to criminal convictions. It is essential to stay informed about the evolving landscape of immigration policy and seek legal counsel when facing immigration challenges.

For more information or assistance with immigration and criminal defense matters, please contact me.

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