Warning: Drunk Driving May be Hazardous to Your Immigration Status

Recently, the INS initiated "Operation Last Call", an initiative to apprehend and deport any noncitizen currently residing in the United States who has three or more convictions for Driving Under the Influence ("DUI"). Operation Last Call applies to any felony conviction for DUI, which, in the state of Texas, most often is the third conviction.

A case from the Board of Immigration Appeals ("BIA") held that a felony conviction for DUI was an aggravated felony. The new law enacted in 1996 states that an alien who has been convicted of an aggravated felony is removable (deportable) from the U.S. Deportation as an aggravated felon carries a serious penalty-an alien is permanently barred from reentering the country. This "permanent removal" is effective regardless of the alien's relationship to any U.S. citizen. Convictions, as defined by the Immigration and Nationality Act, include deferred adjudications and probated sentences.

What is important to note about Operation Last Call is that it applies to any noncitizen, including Legal Permanent Residents, or "green card" holders, and it applies retroactively to any DUI committed years before the law changed in 1996, requiring deportation for such offenses.

Shortly after the INS began apprehending what has been dubbed "DUI 3rds" from their homes and places of employment, a great deal of resistance was voiced, not only by the alien community, but also the numerous U.S. Citizen family members who were about to lose their spouse, parent, or an employee due to a mistake the alien may have made years ago.

Because of the backlash, the INS has suspended the operation of actively seeking and apprehending felony DUI offenders and is now concentrating on other aggravated felons and individuals who come to directly the attention of the INS. Foreign nationals with felony convictions of DUI may still deportable from the United States as aggravated felons.

Despite the fact that the INS has suspended Operation Last Call, it is important to realize that the INS is taking the new law very seriously and will deport individuals who have committed aggravated felonies. Most crimes which carry a sentence of one year or more are considered to be aggravated felonies and will result in thealien's deportation from the U.S. permanently and the INS cannot possibly. Because of the harsh penalties associated with most crimes, it is in every alien's best interest to maintain a clean record. If an alien is arrested, he/she should consult with not only a criminal attorney, but also an attorney experienced in immigration law so that any harsh consequences relating to the alien's status are avoided whenever possible.

We can assist in analyzing whether company employees are subject to removal for former drug or alcohol relates offenses.