Determined Veteran Reverses DWI Deportation Part I: A Long Road Out

Posted by Doug Murphy | Feb 08, 2021 | 0 Comments

All that it took was years and years of plain old grit. So says the story of a U.S. Navy veteran whom federal immigration authorities deported after a second DWI but who in late 2020 finally won his legal readmission to the U.S. as a naturalized citizen.

The story involves a man who entered the U.S. legally as a six-year-old child to live as a legal permanent resident in El Paso with his immigrant family. The then-young man enlisted in the Navy right out of high school, serving in the early 1990s Persian Gulf War. That wartime service turned out to be fortuitous for the young legal permanent resident because it gave him the right to naturalize as a U.S. citizen. Unfortunately, the young man didn't realize his need to naturalize. Instead, the story reports that he returned to El Paso with a drinking habit from wartime stress.

The man joined the Army National Guard at home in El Paso, where he also worked for the Veterans Administration and as an equipment technician--until he incurred a DWI for which federal authorities deported him across the Rio Grande to Ciudad Juarez. After years of odd jobs across the border, the man snuck back to El Paso to join his wife, kids, and ailing mother, only to incur a second DWI and deportation.

DWIs and Immigration

Immigration laws and DWI laws have had a complex history. Sensibly, immigration laws have long permitted deportation of non-citizens, both legal permanent residents and other alien residents, who commit crimes of moral turpitude or aggravated felonies in the U.S. As states began to criminalize the reckless danger of drunk driving, immigration law adopted DWI as a deportable offense. Hence the above Texas veteran's deportation, twice, once for each DWI.

But attitudes have changed about deporting immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for many years, contributing substantially to its economy, society, and culture. Gradually, drunk driving, or at least a first DWI that hadn't caused serious injury or death, looked less and less like a deportable offense. A 2004 Supreme Court decision Leocal v Ashcroft prohibiting deportation of legal permanent residents based on a simple DWI because not an aggravated felony reflected those attitude changes.

Implications for Immigrants

That case decision, and the special right of immigrant wartime veterans to prompt naturalization, was what enabled our story's veteran to qualify for readmission and naturalization as a U.S. citizen late in 2020, about which we will learn more in Part II of this story.

While the above story involved a veteran who had legal advantages to return for naturalization, that veteran's story nonetheless highlights the trend to sharply limit deportation grounds in ways that relieve immigrants of much of the DWI deportation risk. As long as the DWI offense does not constitute an aggravated felony, federal officials should not deport based alone on that offense. The key for an immigrant charged with a DWI offense, then, is to ensure that the charge does not result in conviction of an aggravated felony.

Retain Expert Representation

And that is where the expert representation of a DWI Specialist comes in. Nationally recognized Texas DWI attorney Doug Murphy has helped innumerable clients, including immigrant clients, defend false, exaggerated, and otherwise-unjust DWI charges. Don't let a DWI charge somehow become a deportable offense. Persons charged with a Texas DWI have substantial and enforceable legal rights. 2021 Houston DWI Lawyer of the Year Doug Murphy knows and expertly enforces those rights. Contact Doug Murphy Law Firm online or at (713) 229-8333 to discuss your case today.

About the Author

Doug Murphy

Doug Murphy is one of only two Texas lawyers Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, and also in DWI Defense by the National College for DUI Defense, accredited by the American Bar Association and the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.


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