In an article that Carlos Moctezuma García and I coauthored for the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association’s newsletter, Voice for the Defense, we explain the possible immigration ramifications of a recent change to pretrial diversion in Hidalgo County, Texas. César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández & Carlos Moctezuma García, Change to Pretrial Diversion Policy Could Lead to Deportation 32-33 (June 2011) (the article is available online also).
Rather than allow defendants to pursue pretrial diversion without pleading, the Hidalgo County District Attorney’s office recently began requiring defendants to enter a plea. This minor change from the criminal law perspective is likely sufficient, we point out in the article, to satisfy the INA’s definition of conviction. As such, what is not a conviction for purposes of Texas criminal law would likely be considered a conviction for purposes of immigration law.
That this policy change was implemented without any publicity adds a secondary cautionary tale for prosecutors, defendants, and defense attorneys: criminal law is not a vacuum. Policies that appear insignificant from the isolated perspective of criminal law might have major impacts on noncitizen defendants.