Teen pop star Justin Bieber made headlines recently for some questionable behavior. The 19-year-old musician was arrested on January 23, 2014 for allegedly driving under the influence (DUI), posession of illegal narcotics, and drag racing in Florida. Scores of Bieber’s fan – known as “Beliebers” – pose the question of whether the Canadian entertainer can legally be deported from the United States now that charges have been lodged against him. Let’s discuss.
What Is Deportation?
“Deportation” is the formal removal of an non-citizen from the United States. Non-citizens are also called “aliens” and “undocumented immigrants.” When an alien is determined “removable” for violating U.S. immigration laws, they are placed into “removal proceedings” also known as “deportation hearings.” Removal proceedings are overseen by an immigration judge and the Government is represented by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
What Causes Deportation?
To be removed from the United States, an alien must violate one or more immigration laws. The vast majority of causes for removal are illegal entry into the U.S. and commission of a criminal offense. Justin Bieber is a Canadian citizen who (presumably) entered the U.S. legally. The question is whether Mr. Bieber can be deported based on his current charges. The answer is: it depends.
Charges vs. Convictions
Being arrested or charged with a criminal offense does not qualify a person for removal/deportation. A person must first be convicted. More importantly, not all criminal convictions will make a person eligible for removal. With some exceptions that we won’t discuss in this blog, an alien must be convicted of a “felony” in order to eligible for removal from the United States. A felony is defined differently under each state’s criminal laws and codes, but federal immigration law considers any pronounced sentence of 365 days or more to be a felony. In Mr. Bieber’s case, a DUI charge will not make him eligible for removal since the maximuim punishment is less than 365 days in jail. In Florida, drag racing carries up to six months in jail, meaning “the Biebs” cannot be deported if he is convicted of that offense either. In a separate incident of misconduct, Bieber allegedly vandalized a neighbor’s home by throwing eggs at it. The alleged property damage was several thousands of dollars, making the alleged offense a felony. If Bieber is convicted of the felony vandalism charge, he could potentially be removed from United States. If the U.S. Government actually placed Bieber into removal proceedings, the next issue is whether he would qualify for any relief from removal. Time will tell!