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303-764-1400 Applying for a Public Defender


Involvement in the criminal legal system can have a significant impact on a noncitizen’s legal status, their pursuit of happiness, and their overall life goals. Sometimes even a minor conviction can subject a client to deportation or exclusion from the United States which separates them from family and community.

While in the past, criminal law and immigration law were largely separate, beginning in the 1980s, this began to change, with United States government agencies leveraging even minor and nonviolent offenses against noncitizens in order to reduce overall immigration as a result of federal priorities. United States Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) has made it a matter of public policy, explaining they will pursue removal proceedings for any noncitizen convicted of a criminal offense or has been charged with an offense that has yet to be resolved, including in many cases even minor offenses.[1]

The United States Supreme Court found in United States v. Padilla that attorneys for noncitizen criminal defendants must counsel their clients on the potential immigration consequences of their charges. To further our commitment to client-centered, tenacious advocacy, the Colorado Office of the State Public Defender established an Immigration Initiative that helps the lawyers in the system provide client-centered immigration advice to their clients.

An attorney that specializes in the intersection of criminal law and immigration law provides public defenders with training on relevant immigration law and consultation on cases involving noncitizen clients. Under the guidance of this in-house ‘crimmigration’ expert, defenders are better able to represent their noncitizen clients and help them reach their goals with respect to immigration.

In 2013 alone, ICE deported over 216,000 people with a criminal conviction on their record. By contrast, between 1908 and 1980 only about 56,000 people were deported or excluded from the U.S. based on a criminal conviction or offense.

Have Questions?

If you have questions about your status in the United States, please raise them with your public defender. While public defenders cannot appear on your behalf in immigration court, they can make referrals to private counsel, immigrant advocacy networks, and law school clinics where you can obtain representation for immigration court.

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