USCIS Updates Policy Regarding Establishing Good Moral Character
By Jennifer G. Hickey | FAIR Take | December 2019
On December 10, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced new policy guidance that will implement two decisions issued by Attorney General William Barr in October regarding the impact of having two or more DUI convictions on “good moral character” (GMC) determinations and how post-sentencing changes to criminal sentences affect convictions and sentences for immigration purposes. The changes arise from two rulings Barr issued in immigration cases decided on October 25, therefore the updates are applicable to any cases filed or pending on or after Oct. 25, 2019.
In the first case, Barr wrote, “Absent substantial relevant and credible contrary evidence, multiple DUI convictions require that the immigration judge deny cancellation of removal.”
In the other matter, the attorney general decided in Matter of Thomas and Thompson that the definition of “term of imprisonment or a sentence” generally refers to an alien’s original criminal sentence, without regard to post-sentencing changes. Post-sentencing orders that change a criminal alien’s original sentence will only be relevant for immigration purposes if they are based on a procedural or substantive defect in the underlying criminal proceeding.
This decision is important because it decreases the ability of state courts to intervene and influence the deportation process through adjustments made to lesser criminal sentences. New York and California, for example, have changed the length of sentences of certain misdemeanor crimes in order to avoid automatic detention or deportation.
“As the attorney general directed, this guidance enhances public safety by ensuring that USCIS adjudicators consider driving under the influence convictions with the appropriate standard of scrutiny,” said USCIS Deputy Director Mark Koumans.
To find more information about this update, view the USCIS Policy Manual.