Here’s the scenario:
Steve was working with a client in VA state court. He asked for advice on the immigiration consequence. He said: There was a client of mine who was charged with Possession with Intent to Distribute (Marijuana) in Fairfax. We got the charge amended to straight Possession and plead guilty. He did a couple of weekends in exchange for the amended charge. He recently traveled out of the country (against our advice) and upon his return, was given a date to meet CBP out at Dulles. Bad news. I’ve already told him that he is almost certainly going to get a NTA, and possibly detained. I have a possible solution for him: The cop really liked the client, and was a huge help in getting the charge amended. There was also not very much pot at the time of the arrest. If I can get a statement from the cop that would get this within the de minimis range, we might even be able to head this off at the CBP level. Even if that didn’t work, we would have that for his defense in the eventual Removal Proceedings.
My thought is to go with him out to Dulles in November. Because he already paid us to defend him in the criminal case, and because he is very likely going to have to pay us to represent him in Removal Proceedings, I was thinking XX for the CBP meeting only. (Removal Proceedings is a whole new ball of wax.) I can try to get some help from the cop to see if we can kill this and keep our guy in the country and out of Farmville.
This is a great case to discuss the difference between INA 237 (deporability when in the US) and INA 212 (inadmissibility) concerning the petty exception.
Because the client is a returning alien, his entrance into the United States is controlled by INA 212 (restrictions on admissibility) as opposed to INA 237 (deportability once in the US). The petty exception is quite different. In 237, the exception covers marijuana at 30 grams or less. In 212, no drugs are permitted – the petty exception covers only CIMT’s whose max sentence is 1 year or less, and whose actual sentence (served or given) is 6 months or less. Because possession is not a CIMT, the petty exception under INA 212(a)(2)(A) won’t work. Because our fella is an LPR, there is a different type of waiver available for drug convictions. It actually applies to any drug conviction, not just 30 grams or less of marijuana.
The exception is found under INA 212(h). There are requirements for this, though, and I’m not sure he’ll meet them. In this case, he would have to have been an LPR for at least 15 years, or he would need to have an immediate family member who would suffer an extreme hardship. For petty drug offenses, these waivers are granted fairly routinely. However, he will have to sit in immigration court, and he will have to go to a trial. Extreme hardship will require the case to be prepared and litigated, and as you know, DHS will argue against it as a matter of course.
A frank discussion with the client will explain all this to him, and prepare him for the process. You won’t be able to head this off at the CBP level. They lack the statutory authority to approve (well, that’s technically not correct – acting on behalf of the Attorney General, a CBP officer could waive him in. Not likely, though). He need us to spearhead a 212(h) on his behalf.