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Hector Quiroga
Attorney at Law

The law allows several options for people who are experience
economic hardship. For example,residents can seek financial
protection under Chapter 7 and/or Chapter 13 of the Federal
Bankruptcy Code. However, bankruptcy can have a substantial
impact immigrants and on those who are seeking adjustment
of their status.
A bankruptcy filling can erase credit card debt, fines, and
sometimes save your home from foreclosure (among other
legal actions). However, it is very important that you check the
impact of this filling would have in your immigration status. It is
critical that you understand the potential consequences to your
specific situation.
The United States government public policy is to not allow
residents and immigrants to become a “public charge.”
Therefore, there are several laws that specifically prohibit
residents (with or without documents) to receive benefits such
as food assistance (Food Stamps). Only U.S. citizens may
qualify for this benefit.
The “public charge” concept is very important as it can have a  
significant impact on your immigration status. If you file for
bankruptcy, the government can consider you as a “public
charge.” This problem is much more serious if you owe money
to Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Some debts with the federal government can be totally
discharged through the bankruptcy process, however, this
filing can put you in serious problems with the Department of
Home Land Security.
It is imperative that you contact a qualified attorney in the
immigration area, before filing, to understand the impact a
bankruptcy may have in your immigration status.
Financial problems could be explained and may not
necessarily disqualify a resident or citizen for benefits under
immigration law. It is important to show that you are not, and
will not, become a public charge. If you have tax debt, it will be
necessary to establish some kind of verifiable arrangement to
pay the IRS and mitigate the potential damage on your
immigration case.
A foreclosure may also be evidence against you, depending on
totality of the circumstances of your case.
Remember, not every financial problem may affect your
immigration status, however  some problems of this nature
can have a substantial negative impact. If you have questions
about foreclosure, bankruptcy, or have immigration questions,
you can call me at 509-927-3840 or you can write me at email:
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Q#1.        I have heard that I can lose my Green Card if I
have any criminal conviction. Is this true?

A#1.        It depends. The immigration law says that if someone
(who is a Green Card holder) has some types of criminal
convictions, the government can take away their Green Card
and deport them.

Q#2.        What type of less serious crimes would a person
most likely not be deported for?

A#2.        You cannot be deported for speeding tickets or
driving without insurance, but if you receive a conviction for
other crimes, that are not very severe, you may still be

Q#3.        What are the most common, less severe charges
that I can be charged with and still be deported by the

A#3.        The most common convictions are domestic violence
and theft. You may be thinking you would never commit such
crimes but you must know you can still be charged with
domestic violence without having hit anyone. You can have a
domestic violence charge simply for having a strong argument
with your wife, children, or other family members that may live
at home. Also keep in mind that you can receive a theft charge
if you or your children place an item in your bag by accident
and you forget to pay for it.

Q#4.        How will the government know that I received
such conviction?

A#4.        Before, the police and local courts were not in touch
with the Immigration Service but now when a Green Card
holder is in jail for such a charge, the jail notifies the
Immigration Service and if the court convicts you for one of
these charges, the Immigration Service can start the process
to deport you.

Q#5.        I’m confused. My friend who is a Green Card
holder had a conviction for domestic violence but he was not
deported. How can this be?

A#5.        If a person was convicted of domestic violence or
theft before the jail and the courts contacted the Immigration
Service, the Immigration Service is not aware of the conviction
at this time. However, the Immigration Service reviews your
criminal history each time you reenter the country, each time
you apply to renew your Green Card and when you apply for U.
S. citizenship.

Q#6.        What can a Green Card holder (who has a
conviction like this) do if they want to travel outside the U.
S., if their Green Card is about to expire or if they want to
apply for U.S. citizenship?

A#6.        That person should speak to an experienced
immigration attorney. There are several types of charges and
sentences that can result in deportation of a legal permanent
resident. It is important to know if a charge is going to affect
your legal status prior to reentering the country, renewing your
Green Card or applying for U.S. citizenship.

Q#7.        I don’t have any criminal charge. What can I do to
avoid these types of charges and losing my Green Card?

A#7.        First, you should avoid any type of criminal activity.
However, the most secure way to protect yourself from being
deported is to become a U.S. citizen. A United States citizen
cannot be deported for a criminal charge.

Thomas Roach is an attorney of the firm Roach & Bishop,
LLP in Pasco, Washington, that practices law in immigration
matters. This information does not constitute legal advice. It
is possible that this information does not apply to you. Each
case depends on all of the specific facts. If you have
questions regarding the immigration laws, so they appear in
this column, send them to: Thomas Roach, 9221 Sandifur
Pkwy, Suite C., Pasco, WA 99301, phone: (509) 547-7587,
fax: (509) 547-7745; or email