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Can you be deported for minor crimes?

Technically, many in the U.S. government will tell you that serious offenders and repeat offenders are their main targets when deporting non-citizens.

While this may be true in theory, and people with serious records are deported, many experts say that the reality is that a lot of individuals who have committed very minor crimes are also being deported. After all, about 59 percent of those who do get deported have criminal records. They are not all committing serious crimes, these experts claim.

For instance, one professional who works on these cases said that she saw a "ton of people" who were eventually deported for things like shoplifting and petty theft. She also saw deportations after things as simple as probation violations. While government statements about serious crimes bring to mind major felonies, she said a lot of deportations were simply for misdemeanors.

Hard statistics have been tough to come by, in large part because federal data does note that someone who has been deported has a criminal record, but it doesn't say what the crime was. So, even though the records help to show some arrest totals, this data leaves a lot of questions to be answered about the nature and seriousness of the crimes. Was someone deported after a violent felony or after swiping something at the local supermarket?

Another part of the problem, a Congressional Research Service report found, is that the term "criminal alien" is often used. However, in immigration law, the report claims this term hasn't been solidly defined. This adds another level of ambiguity to the situation.

As you can see, these reports do indicate that people could be deported for minor crimes. If you've been accused of anything, even if it doesn't seem that serious, you have to know your legal rights.

Source: PBS, "What crimes make immigrants eligible for deportation?," Teresa Wiltz, accessed Jan. 05, 2017

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