The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on Tuesday warned of a new guide that states that two or more convictions for Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol and Drugs (DUI), could affect migrants in their efforts to obtain permanent residence.
The new parameters were introduced by U.S. Attorney General William Barr, who last October established that two or more DUI convictions mean that a person presumably does not have good moral character.
“With this, Attorney Barr wants to put up another wall so undocumented immigrants can’t legalize themselves,” immigration attorney Alex Galvez told Efe.
However, the lawyer stressed that not everything is lost for those migrants who have two or more DUIs.
“The guide says they can affect the determination of good moral character, but it doesn’t say it definitely disqualifies the immigrant; it’s just a negative start. Cases can still be fought,” Gálvez said.
USCIS underscores that the new guide is applicable to any case filed or pending as of October 25, 2019, the date the prosecutor’s decision was made.
This decision follows a review of the case of a Mexican immigrant with the surname Castillo-Pérez who was trying to avoid deportation. He had two DUI convictions, one in 2010 and one in 2012, and had admitted to having problems with alcohol.
Gálvez believes that immigration judges continue to have the power of discretion to handle cases.
One example is an immigrant who, despite having three DUIs, managed to win the case in a Los Angeles court last Friday.
“We were able to prove that this person was rehabilitated and that he deserved to stay in the United States,” the attorney said.
The new guide also includes a decision by Barr that will not take into account modifications to state court rulings for immigration purposes, unless these changes are due to procedural defects or problems in the original handling.
This provision affects immigrants struggling to reduce their serious convictions to misdemeanors.
“This is part of this administration’s zero tolerance policy,” Galvez said.
Since last July, Barr issued a regulation authorizing him to designate which decisions of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) apply as a general rule, which resulted in the two new provisions.