Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed HB 244 into law in late March in what is seen as a step toward immigration reform in the state. HB 244 puts an end to misdemeanor convictions being interpreted as aggravated felonies for noncitizens. This helps those accused of crimes that are petty as shoplifting to avoid automatic deportation. HB 244 accomplishes its purpose by reducing the maximum possible misdemeanor sentence in the state by one day—to 364 days instead of 365, allowing circumvention of a federal immigration law that treats state misdemeanors as felonies when the potential sentence for the offender is one year or more.
While the passage of HB 244 is a win for immigrants, it doesn’t take away the threat of deportation for noncitizens, including those living in the U.S. on temporary visas and those who are here illegally. The value of having a clean record cannot be overstated. If you have been charged with a crime in Utah or even convicted of a crime, it is important that you discuss your situation with our Salt Lake City deportation defense lawyers right away. Your choice of legal counsel in your deportation case is one of the most important decisions you will ever make.
Bypassing an Unjust Federal Law
The archaic federal immigration law that HBB 244 bypasses often results in devastating deportations that rip families apart. In Utah and elsewhere, this unjust federal regulation has seen several classes of immigrants, from victims of domestic abuse and refugees to holders of green cards, being stripped of their immigration statuses and subjected to mandatory deportation. Even in cases where a judge sentences the offender to less than the full year, the old federal law was triggered. This resulted in deportation even for suspended sentences or sentences of less than 30 days were doled out by the courts. Immigration judges’ hands are tied too; they are afforded no discretion when carrying out federal immigration law. Luckily, with HB 244’s passage, Utahns don’t have to worry about falling down that rabbit hole again.
Utah is not the first state to pass what is being dubbed a 364-day law. California, Nevada and Washington also have such protections in place. New York and Colorado have adopted similar laws on the heels of Utah’s HB 244 passage. Such laws are not necessary in stats where the maximum penalty for misdemeanors is less than 365 days. Despite anticipation that HB 244 would face resistance during its trip to the governor’s desk, it passed both chambers unanimously.
At Familia America, we are a voice for the many immigrant clients that we serve. We will fight for you to help you remain in this country and do our best to help you attain legal status. You are not alone. Contact our Salt Lake City deportation defense attorney as soon as possible following your arrest to discuss your legal options and determine if your alleged offense qualifies for deportation under the law. Give us a call at 801-656-9605 now to get in touch with our compassionate team.