Padilla, Espaillat, Castro Introduce Legislation to Remove Unjust Barriers to Citizenship and Prevent Unfair Deportations

Legislation would bring federal immigration law in line with nationwide immigration reform efforts

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and Representatives Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.-13) and Joaquin Castro (D-Texas-20) announced the reintroduction of the Fair Adjudications for Immigrants Act, legislation to remove unjust barriers to naturalization and prevent the unfair removal of immigrants based on a previously dismissed or pardoned criminal conviction.

In particular, the bill would ensure that past criminal convictions that have been expunged, vacated, or pardoned by the sentencing court would no longer block immigrants from a path to citizenship, nor weigh against an immigrant in removal proceedings.

“Our outdated immigration laws have put the American Dream further out of reach by making it nearly impossible for immigrants, especially those with resolved charges or convictions, to become U.S. citizens,” said Senator Padilla. “We must ensure that our immigration system is fair and that a previously dismissed charge or pardoned conviction doesn’t prevent an immigrant from being able to naturalize or factor into any removal decisions.”

“We are a nation of immigrants with a system that is in need of repair,” said Representative Espaillat. “Our nation’s immigrants have been unjustly denied a legal pathway to citizenship for far too long and still face deportation due to convictions that have been pardoned, adjudicated, or suspended. No one deserves to be deported for a past conviction that’s been thrown out, and no one should be denied their chance at the American Dream because of it either. It is my hope and desire that by passing this bill, we can begin to rebuild our nation’s immigration system in ways that make it more equitable and accessible for all who call America home.”

“America’s broken justice system shouldn’t compound the harms of our broken immigration system,” said Representative Castro. “Immigrants already face uphill battles to their American dreams, and expunged or suspended convictions shouldn’t count against them in naturalization or deportation proceedings. I’m proud to join Congressman Espaillat and Senator Padilla to introduce this important legislation, which will keep immigrants from being unjustly penalized for convictions that are no longer considered valid by the courts.”

The Fair Adjudications for Immigrants Act would amend the definition of “conviction” in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to remove this unjust barrier to naturalization and prevent unfair removals on these grounds. This bill would also bring federal immigration law in line with many rehabilitative and sentencing reform measures in the criminal justice system.

Specifically, the bill amends the definition of “conviction” in the INA to “a formal judgment of guilt of the noncitizen entered by a court” and excepts the following circumstances from being considered a conviction:

  • An adjudication or judgment of guilt that has been dismissed, expunged, deferred, annulled, invalidated, withheld, vacated, or pardoned federally or by a state or locality.
  • Any adjudication in which the court has issued a judicial recommendation against removal, an order of probation without entry of judgment, or any similar disposition.
  • A judgment that is on appeal or is within the time to file a direct appeal.

This bill would apply retroactively to any conviction, adjudication, or judgement entered before, on, or after the enactment of this bill. The bill also establishes that the grounds of inadmissibility and deportability do not apply to an immigrant with a criminal conviction if, after having provided notice and an opportunity to respond to the prosecuting authorities, the sentencing court issues a recommendation to the Secretary of Homeland Security that the immigrant not be removed on the basis of the conviction.

Full text of the bill is available here.


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