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North Carolina man's case could test bounds of immigration rules

Two weeks ago, we posted about President Obama's deferred action program, which allows certain illegal immigrants to remain in the country for a period of two years if they meet particular criteria. Among those criteria are requirements relating to an immigrant's criminal record. To be eligible for deferred action, a person must not have received a conviction for a number of misdemeanor crimes, a serious misdemeanor offense or a felony.

But there is some ambiguity in those terms. No one is completely sure what constitutes a serious misdemeanor or when a person has accumulated enough misdemeanor offenses to become ineligible for deferred action. But the immigration case of one North Carolina man who has applied for deferred action could provide some contours to those terms when he appears in court in September.

The man meets the age and education requirements for deferred action. He is under 30, came to the United States under 16 and graduated from high school here in North Carolina. His only trouble could come from his criminal record. He has one driving while impaired conviction and a few traffic offenses. Recently, he entered an Alford plea--a particular type of criminal plea that still results in a conviction--to charges of violating building rules and disorderly conduct.

The charges stemmed from his participation in an act of political protest. He and other activists attended a state legislative committee meeting that had convened to discuss drawing up possible state immigration laws. He stood up during the meeting and read a short, prepared slogan that voiced his opposition to potential immigration laws. Officers removed him from the room and charged him with the crimes listed above.

The issue is whether those charges and the ones already on his record preclude him from entering the deferred action program. His record makes it difficult to predict what the end result of his case will be, but when the court hands down its decision, the program's definitions should come into sharper relief. We will provide updates to this case as it moves forward.

Source: Winston-Salem Journal, "Winston-Salem activist could face deportation," Bertrand M. Gutierrez, July 2, 2012.

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