In response to President-Elect Trump’s campaign promises to deport millions of immigrants with criminal backgrounds and in an effort to protect deportable individuals with only minor crimes, two Democratic Representatives, Nydia M. Velázquez (D-Brooklyn) and José E. Serrano (D-Bronx) are leading an urgent effort to persuade President Obama to take action in his final days of office. In particular, these lawmakers are requesting that President Obama exercise his pardoning powers to pardon Lawful Permanent Residents (i.e. Green Card holders) who are legally deportable based solely on minor low-level criminal offenses. It is estimated that between 100,000 to 200,000 Green Card Holders could benefit from this proposed Presidential pardon.
Although it may not be common knowledge, possessing a Green Card is a privilege and not a right. Individuals with Green Cards are considered lawful residents and although the word “permanent” is associated with their status, they can be deported at any juncture if they violate U.S. laws. Noteworthy is the fact that in order for immigrants to have been granted lawful permanent resident status, they must have been properly vetted, fingerprinted, and subjected to systematic biometric procedures. This is an important fact which should dispel the myth that the current immigration system is somehow allowing individuals to become lawful residents without proper background checks. Indeed, the Representatives are only asking for a pardon for individuals who have already passed these scrutinizing litmus tests.
The particular expressed concern of Representatives Serrano and Velazquez is that small legal offenses, such as shoplifting or marijuana possession, will subject legal residents to deportation, even if they occurred a long time ago, on one single occasion, and in the absence of no other presenting factors that would place the country at risk.
At the Shulman Law Group, LLC, we strongly support the efforts of Representatives Serrano and Velázquez. We have many clients who possess Green Cards and, apart from a minor legal infraction in the past, have been properly vetted, are otherwise upstanding residents, and pose no threat to the United States. Without action, they are at risk for removal from the United States which would tear apart their otherwise cohesive family units, causing extreme psychological, emotional, and financial hardships to their children, spouses, and parents who are living lawfully in the United States.