Disproportionately Harsh DUI Provisions

BACKGROUND: The Senate bill contains a number of provisions that address DUIs. During mark-up, the Judiciary Committee added a new “aggravated felony” ground for DUIs. Legalization applicants and green card holders will face mandatory deportation if they trigger these provisions. An immigration judge or law enforcement will legally not be allowed to consider the individual circumstances of the person’s case, such as the seriousness of the offense, rehabilitation, family ties, and military service. It is not clear whether some of these provisions are retroactive, meaning that you can be deportable for long ago convictions.

THE PROBLEM: Individuals who committed drunk driving offenses years ago would be subject to deportation if they only committed one per se violation after the effective date. This will lead to the detention and deportation of individuals who pled guilty to drunk driving offenses decades ago, have never served jail time and have since built stable and productive lives in the United States.  It also sweeps in lawful permanent residents, or green card holders, who have been contributing members of their communities.

THE SOLUTION:  In order to address the risks to public safety by drunk driving, states have ensured that DUI offenses apply to a wide range of circumstances criminalizing both strict liability offenses based on chemical tests of blood alcohol content levels and offenses involving impairment and/or aggravating factors such as damage to persons or property. In the current bill, the failure to distinguish serious misconduct from statutory violations will have unconscionable results. For example, in most states an individual can be convicted for an “operating under the influence” offense without the vehicle being driven e.g. a person passed out in the car. This person will be treated the same as an individual who engages in dangerous driving with injury consequences.

TALKING POINTS

  • The bill employs a “one-size-fits-all” approach to drunk driving offenses, treating all violations the same even if there is no damage to a person or property.
  • The provisions provide a new “aggravated felony” ground of inadmissibility, barring the path to legalization, for undocumented individuals who are convicted of three or more offenses and a new “aggravated felony” deportation ground for legally present residents, such as green card holders. These grounds are mandatory bars to pursuing and maintaining legal status. An immigration judge or law enforcement will legally not be allowed to consider the individual circumstances of the person’s case, such as the seriousness of the offense, rehabilitation, family ties, and military service.
  • Certain proposed amendments would mandate permanent exile for immigrants with one DUI conviction. No one should be banned from the country they call home and separated from their families for a mistake that the criminal justice system treats much less harshly.
  • The criminal justice system recognizes the need for rehabilitation with DUI convictions. Drunk driving may be the result of alcohol’s addictive effects, which is a public health issue that calls for treatment rather than permanent exile.

RELEVANT AMENDMENTS

During the bill’s mark-up in the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Cornyn filed Cornyn Amendment #3, which would bar legalization for anyone convicted of one DUI.

Update: 6/18/2013 Cornyn Amendment#3 is now included in the RESULTS Amendment.

STORIES

An undocumented father who is responsible for his 19 year-old US citizen daughter who is slowly dying from a progressive, incurable, blood disorder would be barred from pursuing the path to citizenship under the Cornyn RESULTS amendment.  He has been working and supporting his family while his wife, also undocumented, cares for their daughter, who is now in college, but whose condition is slowly worsening.  People with this disorder rarely live past 20.  His other children and stepchildren are U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents and Dreamers, one of whom is also in college. The father has one DUI from 1998, and no other criminal convictions. He would be eligible for legalization, if not for the Cornyn RESULTS amendment. 

Back to Legalization Bars Section

Download PDF of DUI Talking Points or  IJN’s Criminal Bars to Legalization Packet