I have a neighbor who was arrested after having a loud fight with his wife in their front yard. He had a green card. Later, I heard that he was arrested and deported from the U.S. after he went to court, even though his wife said that he never hit her or hurt her physically.
My wife and I yell at each other sometimes, and it can get pretty loud. Could the same thing happen to me (also a U.S. permanent resident)?
Your neighbor was most likely convicted of domestic violence, which is a deportable crime. While most people think of domestic violence as necessarily physical, people can be convicted of domestic violence when the other person feels threatened.
This depends on state law, but is the case in many states, because domestic violence is often viewed as a subset of assault. Despite its popular meaning, the crime of assault, which originally comes from old British legal statutes, had to do with putting another person in fear of immediate harm.
Domestic violence is taken very seriously in the United States. That is why statutes are often written broadly, to make sure that all types of domestic violence are covered, including psychological violence and emotional violence.
That doesn’t mean you should worry about the same thing happening to you just because you and your wife have a loud argument. It does mean that you should remember that any violence towards a household member, including your spouse, could have serious consequences.
If you find yourself in a situation where the police have been called to your home because of a loud argument or because you and your wife are fighting, there are steps you can take to make sure that you respond adequately to the police and that you protect your rights.
First, you should speak with the police respectfully, and follow their commands. If you need an interpreter, ask for one to be present. Don’t try to struggle through it if you do not understand what the police are saying.
Second, you should not say anything about what happened until you speak to your attorney.
Third, remember that the U.S. legal system allows people to ‘plead’ to an offense, which means to formally agree with the prosecutor to admit to the crime in front of the judge instead of taking the case to a trial. Before accepting any agreement, you should make sure you understand the effects of a conviction on your immigration status.
The judge and the prosecutor can choose what section of law to charge you with. A judge or prosecutor could allow you to plead to something like disorderly conduct or disturbing the public order, depending on the statutes in your state. A green card holder is deportable for a domestic violence crime but is not deportable for having committed disorderly conduct or an offense related to public order.
But it's often true that the judge and the prosecutor are not aware of what a criminal conviction would mean for someone as a green card or visa holder. Therefore, you must look into whether the crime the government has charged you with will make you inadmissible or deportable, and what that could mean for you. It's worth hiring an experienced immigration lawyer to help with that analysis.