October 23, 2016
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Supreme Court To Consider Legal Immigrant’s Right to Know Guilty Plea Will Lead to Deportation

 US Supreme Court to Hear Argument in Ineffective Counsel Case

Will Consider Legal Immigrants Right to Know Guilty Plea Will Lead to Deportation

On October 13, 2009, in
 Padilla v. Kentucky, the US Supreme Court will consider whether an immigrant is entitled to an accurate answer when he asks his criminal defense attorney if he will be deported after entering a guilty plea.

Jose Padilla, a longtime legal permanent resident from Honduras, pleaded guilty in 2002 to two marijuana possession misdemeanors and one marijuana trafficking felony after his lawyer erroneously advised him that his plea would have no effect on his immigration status.

In fact, as a result of his plea, Padilla will be subject to mandatory deportation immediately after serving his 10-year criminal sentence. Under federal
 laws passed in 1996, no judge can prevent his deportation to Honduras, despite the fact that he will have served his criminal sentence, has lived legally in the United States for nearly 40 years as a lawful permanent resident, and fought in the US Armed Forces in Vietnam.

As of the end of 2008, 1 million immigrants had been deported from the United States under these mandatory deportation laws. Human Rights Watchs companion reports on this subject 
 Forced Apart (2007) and Forced Apart (By the Numbers) (2009)  analyzed new data and gathered numerous cases illustrating the rights violations suffered by immigrants, including separation from their families, because of these harsh laws:

·       The reports disprove the popular belief that the US almost exclusively deports undocumented (or illegally present) non-citizens convicted of violent crimes. In reality, most have criminal histories even less serious than Padillas.

·       Three quarters of non-citizens deported from the United States over the last decade had criminal histories limited to nonviolent offenses such as marijuana or cocaine possession, and one in five, like Padilla, had been in the country legally, sometimes for decades.

·       At least 1 million spouses and children have been separated from their family members because of these deportations.

Padilla and others like him could have their pleas set aside and instead go to trial or have their pleas renegotiated.

“The court will decide whether criminal defense attorneys must give their clients accurate information about the likelihood of deportation after entering a guilty plea,” said Alison Parker, deputy US Program director at Human Rights Watch. “But it cant untie the hands of judges who have no choice but to deport people like Padilla with strong US connections, tearing apart families and lives.”

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on unfair immigration policies in the United States, please visit:


For more information, please contact:

In San Francisco, Alison Parker: +1-415-817-1171; or +1-917-535-9796 (mobile); or

STORY TAGS: supreme court, legal, immigrant, immigrants, guilty, please, deportation, jose padilla, honduras, marijuana, drug, misdemeanor, felony, legality

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