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Florida case raises questions about retroactivity and criminal deportation

Under a 2010 Supreme Court ruling, immigrants can challenge removal proceedings if they pled guilty to a crime without being informed they could be deported for doing so. The question remains whether that law can be applied retroactively. In the 2010 case, a conviction was thrown out because the defendant's lawyers failed to warn him that he would be deported upon pleading guilty.

Currently, federal courts are conflicted about the application of the ruling. "Retroactivity" has become a hot button issue for immigrants facing deportation who saw hope in the 2010 decision. Immigrant advocates believe that the law should be applied retroactively and that criminal defendants deserve reasonably effective counsel who can provide advice on the consequences of a guilty plea.

In a current Florida case, a Nicaraguan man is fighting deportation for an 11-year-old drug charge. According to records, the Miami bank administrator was charged in 2001 for the sale of LSD. His lawyers allegedly did not warn him in 2001 that he would be deported if he pled guilty to the drug charge. A Miami judge refused to hear his case and the state Supreme Court upheld the ruling.

Now the case is headed to the U.S. Supreme Court, where it will be decided if retroactivity can be applied to the case. A similar case involves a Mexican immigrant who has been a permanent resident in Chicago since 1977. She was accused of insurance fraud and sentenced to 4 years of probation but her lawyers did not tell her that she could face deportation if she pled guilty.

Immigrants who are accused of a crime should have a clear understanding of their rights. If you are seeking a visa, citizenship, or need counsel on an immigration matter, an experienced attorney can protect your rights.

Source: Fox News Latino, "Florida Immigration Case Continues Retroactivity Battle," Nov. 21, 2012

Source: Reuters, "Supreme Court weighs expanded warnings on deportation risk," Jonathon Stempel, Nov. 1, 2012

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