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What Is an Aggravated Felony?

Aggravated felony covers a long list of crimes committed by non-citizens of a country with varying punishments. People that can be charged with this type of crime include aliens still awaiting their legal permanent resident status, those seeking asylum and those wanting to escape deportation proceedings.

In the U.S., the term aggravated felony came into being in 1988. It was first conceptualized in the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 as a way to fight drug trafficking in the country. Since then, its meaning has expanded.

Further, the Immigration and Nationality Act in 1988, the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 led to added more crimes classified as aggravated felonies. These include murder, drug and firearms trafficking, gambling, passport fraud, rape, sexual abuse of a minor, theft, prostitution and child pornography crimes, bribery, perjury and conspiracy among many others.

Non-citizens of a country convicted of aggravated felony are immediately deported. But this occurs after the person has completed serving his prison term as a result of the crime he or she committed. Once convicted, an alien is required to be detained while awaiting his deportation.

Aliens are normally covered by immigration laws and can be deported when they violate laws not only involving immigration but even when they engage in activities that threaten a country’s security and commit crimes. Those convicted of aggravated felony can be automatically deported regardless of their immigration status, their length of stay in the country, the presence of family members who are already citizens of the country and the strength of their ties to the community.

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