People always want to know, “How can you get caught by immigration if you’re here or you have a criminal conviction?” It depends. Anytime you have something that you’ve done wrong in your life or you have a criminal conviction and you come into contact with immigration, that’s how they’re going to know you’re here and they’re going to know how you violated your status and place you into removal proceedings. There’s a couple of ways it happens.

Sometimes when you’re in criminal custody, they can turn you over to immigration. That’s a very common way that you get placed into removal proceedings. Another common way is when people have to renew their green card and have a criminal conviction. Immigration will learn of the criminal conviction once they take your fingerprints. Another common way is citizenship. When you apply for citizenship and you have a criminal conviction, immigration will learn about it and if you’re deportable, will place you into removal proceedings. It’s important, if you have a criminal conviction and you’re applying for citizenship, to understand what those consequences mean for your green card.

Another way to get caught by immigration, is through travel of outside the United States. When you try to re-enter the United States, if you have something amiss in how you got your green card, this will probably cause immigration to stop you at the border. Red flags that may cause them to stop you at the border, can include previous criminal convictions or fraudulent acquisition of a green card. It is up to their discretion, depending on the nature of the offense and what it is, to detain you. They will then take your green card away and place you in removal proceedings. Anytime you come into contact with immigration and there’s something negative either in your past that makes you deportable or something currently because of a criminal conviction after you got your green card, immigration will know about it.

There are also now different projects that are going on that if you have some type of an offense, immigration somehow knows about it. They have teams that are going out and looking for people who have criminal convictions for certain offenses and they will detain you at your home, generally early in the morning, and place you into removal proceedings. These are called operations; there are different operations that ICE is undergoing and you have to be mindful that if you do have a criminal conviction particularly, that immigration may catch up to you at some point. If that’s your situation, even if immigration has not come to see you but you’re concerned about it, it’s probably a good idea to discuss what the potential outcome would be and what that means for you and your family with an experienced immigration lawyer such as myself. I’d be happy to discuss what options you have if immigration, unfortunately, comes to see you.

Cheryl David is an experienced attorney, practicing immigration law in New York City. Click here to contact her with deportation and general immigration questions, and set up your free initial consultation.