POST-CONVICTION RELIEF PROGRAM
A FIGHTING CHANCE
ImmDef is one of the only nonprofits in California with dedicated staff working to give immigrants the chance to challenge deportations based on unlawful criminal convictions. Immigrants with criminal convictions are primary targets for immigration authorities in the United States.
Many people do not realize that a conviction for a low-level offense such as petty theft, shoplifting or non-violent drug possession can trigger a deportation order and lead to exile for legal permanent residents (LPRs) who may have had status in the United States for years. A criminal conviction that might be a learning experience for a U.S. citizen can become a life sentence for someone who only has legal residency.
To advance our work in this emerging area of immigration law, ImmDef, in partnership with the USC Gould School of Law, was honored in 2016 to establish the USC/ImmDef Fellowship for Post-Conviction Relief. This fellowship dedicated a full-time attorney to researching and analyzing our client’s cases to determine whether an unlawful conviction can be erased in order to defend against deportation. We have since continued a similar partnership with Georgetown University. Depending on the facts of the case, our fellow may reopen criminal cases and try to correct mistakes that block the client's access to available deportation defenses.
Depending on the conviction, immigration judges may or may not have discretion to grant relief from deportation, regardless of mitigating factors in the case. For legal permanent residents whose convictions effectively make them ineligible for any immigration relief from deportation, vacating the criminal conviction may be the only chance they have to remain in the United States.