Recently I had the chance to sit down and talk with immigration attorney Jessica Cadavid. We had a great conversation about the intersection of misdemeanor traffic violations and immigration. You can watch the entire video below, or read the transcript below the video.
If you are involved in a criminal case and are not a U.S. citizen, we strongly recommend speaking with an immigration attorney. Attorney Jessica Cadavid is passionate and knowledgable about immigration law. She is also easy to work with and offers consultations in the evenings and by Zoom. You can reach Jessica at 602-515-8859 or schedule an appointment on her website at https://www.cadavidlaw.com/.
A lot of our conversation covers possible “worst case” scenarios. The worst case is just what is possible – it doesn’t mean that the worst case will happen. A good immigration attorney can help you do everything possible to get the best possible outcome in your situation, and avoid the worst case scenario.
Some key takeaways of our conversation are:
- If you are involved in a criminal case and you are not a U.S. citizen, make an appointment with an immigration attorney and talk to them. Get information about how your criminal case might impact your immigration status. Every case and every person is different. You cannot make a fully informed decision when you don’t have all the information.
- Charges involving guns, drugs or alcohol can lead to serious problems such as deportation or being unable to re-enter the country if you are not a U.S. citizen.
- Even minor traffic violations, like civil speeding tickets or photo enforcement tickets, if received in sufficient quantity to constitute a pattern, can cause problems for people applying for citizenship.
- Even if you are dealing with a situation that may derail your immigration goals, you can minimize the damage by having a plan. An immigration attorney like Jessica Cadavid can help you put together and work a plan to give you the best chance possible at achieving your immigration goals.
Documents mentioned in interview.
Below are links to two documents that were mentioned in our conversation. These show the types of questions that are asked when applying for residency or naturalization.
Chris Rike: I’m attorney Chris Rike with Traffic Law Guys. And today we’re talking with immigration attorney, Jessica Cadavid. We’re going to kind of talk about the intersection of misdemeanor, criminal charges, and immigration.
Jessica Cadavid: Hi Chris, thank you so much for having me.
Chris Rike: You bet. Thanks for joining me. I really appreciate it. You’ve got so much good information to share. Important stuff too, it seems like that most people aren’t aware of until it’s too late to make any changes to it.
Jessica Cadavid: That’s exactly right. Simple things like a citation or a traffic violation, we often don’t really associate with having a large impact in our immigration status. But when you’re seeking whether legal permanent status in the United States or you’re looking to naturalize, become a US citizen, these are questions that are going to come up. Because the previous administration has added additional language to dig further into your background. And we can touch on those changes, and how they have affected others in the last four years or so.
Chris Rike: Sounds good. But I guess first, how did you get into this field? This kind of a real legal niche.
Jessica Cadavid: Yeah. So immigration is a really very small niche. We are a super friendly bar because we are all friends. We’re really small. So we really all know each other, and we’re friends. And immigration wasn’t my first choice. I am an immigrant. I wanted to be a civil litigator, and I realized that was not my jam. And I got a job at an immigration law firm. Loved it, learned a lot, and then started kind of moving through the system. I really learned. The way of helping others really made me joyful. And it really made me happy to see a lot of faces, and a lot of joyful stories that made me feel like I made a difference in somebody else’s day.
Chris Rike: That’s awesome. That probably helps to have had some personal experience kind of similar to [crosstalk 00:02:18]-
Jessica Cadavid: Yeah. It was kind of interesting. I’ve been through the system completely. I did my legal permanent residency, I did naturalization, I did all of it. So now I can see that that aspect of my life is extremely helpful when I’m helping my clients go through that process. Because I picture myself, how would I want help? Would I want somebody to help me? And the way that I was helped was wonderful. So I do that for others.
Chris Rike: Awesome. That sounds satisfying, and glad to have folks like you to help too.
Jessica Cadavid: Yeah. Immigration is a really big issue, and the people that are going through it, it’s a difficult time. There’s a lot of unknowns, a lot of questions and deep uncertainty on an everyday life and on everyday issues that we don’t necessarily think as being a big issue for ourselves.
Chris Rike: No, we got quite a mixture of clients probably. Arizona’s, we got a lot of people that are here on work and student visas, who are here vacationing. We’re also a border state, so we got the people all sorts of immigration statuses getting traffic tickets while driving. So for somebody that is a US citizen getting any kind of traffic ticket really is annoying, but it’s not going to derail them in their life typically.
Jessica Cadavid: That’s correct.
Chris Rike: That’s totally different if you’re not a citizen.
Jessica Cadavid: Correct. So even as like you said, being an immigrant doesn’t necessarily mean you’re living here forever. It could also mean you’re here on temporary business. You can be here on tourism. You can be here on a student visa. And all of that can be affected by a traffic citation. Arizona is one of the few states that gives a driver’s license or temporary driver’s license to those abroad. So if you’re here vacationing and if you want to drive, you have the right to drive. But what happens when you get in trouble? How is that going to look for your renewal of your visa, or if you’re looking to have any other process that can also be challenging due to certain wordage within the documentation needed to be filed.
Chris Rike: Maybe we could look at the few different immigration statuses, and how that would work out if you got a criminal traffic ticket. We’re talking to misdemeanors here. I guess you could do it… Anyway, we’re talking misdemeanor traffic violations and civil ones, no felony stuff. That’s if you’re undocumented and let’s say you get an excessive speed tickets, you got a misdemeanor ticket for driving too fast. How could that impact you?
Jessica Cadavid: So being undocumented and receiving a speeding ticket can sometimes be extremely dangerous. So there are certain things that will affect you. One of them is the fact that you’ve now entered the “system”. So now you’re in front of a police officer that is going to be asking you for your name, information, asking for documentation, and asking for a driver’s license that you may not have. Due to that then what happens is, now you’ve entered the court system. Whether you have to pay a fine or have to undergo a class, that becomes part of your record.
Also at that stop, if you do not have the proper documentation, that stop can turn into, unfortunately, an immigration detention where you can see yourself in a deportation office, or in front of ICE. So making sure that you adhere to traffic laws, it’s something sometimes very silly. Something is really important, because the officer has the right to contact ICE in order to let them know that you do not have the proper documentation, and that they should be able to check you out. That’s completely at their discretion. So having a simple stop because you didn’t stop at a stop sign, or having a simple traffic violation as I ran a red light or I’m excessive speeding, those simple things can now turn you into a nightmare of having to face detention, having to see an immigration judge, and having to look at a very long line of small to big issues that you weren’t adhering to by just simply driving the speed limit.
Chris Rike: So it sounds like just the actual traffic stop could lead to all these problems, or not even to the conviction part?
Jessica Cadavid: No. A traffic’s stop is equally as dangerous for somebody who is undocumented. For the fact that during a traffic stop, all your information has to be written down. Your driver’s license number. Well, now, you don’t have a driver’s license because you’re not in the system. Or maybe you’re driving with a driver’s license that is not a real document. So, now you’re looking at a fraudulent document charge. So that’s problematic on its own, along with other citations. So on top of all of that, then you also have the risk of, well, they have the discretion to contact ICE. And many, many, many traffic stops, not just for yourself, but for your passenger. It becomes something extremely dangerous, because you will be brought to a detention center to be checked out, and your documentation to make sure that you are here in the country lawfully. And if not-
Chris Rike: So it all depends on the mood of the cop?
Jessica Cadavid: Yes. It all depends on the officer, and also depends on certain unfortunately police departments. So, for example in olden times, if you were stopped by a sheriff, you knew that ICE would be contacted. That was the policy of the miracle sheriff under adjure pile. A lot of things have changed, but it really is dependent on that officer. Sometimes it’s minor, it’s okay. But sometimes it isn’t. Also depends on the administration, as you know immigration is not a certain thing, but it’s based on the discretion of the other. Of the other, meaning any law enforcement on the other side of how they are with your issue and situation.
Chris Rike: So let’s say you make it through the traffic stop and you don’t get detained. And now you’re in the court process.
Jessica Cadavid: So during the court process, if you are undocumented, then this is going to become part of your record. If you had not any contact with ICE, it’s extremely important that you pay all of your fines, that you deal with this situation, due to the fact that at any point, if you have a chance for adjustment, or if, unfortunately you do end up in detention or in front of an immigration judge, you can show and determine, our standard is a good moral character standard. And that means that you have to demonstrate how good you are. It really is. How moral are we? And in that, demonstrating that all my traffic tickets have been paid. I was responsible, even though I was scared. Because it could have severe consequences for you being somebody’s undocumented. I want to demonstrate that everything has been paid.
Everything has been in order because that is the moral person than I am. A lot of times in what I see in my practice is, sometimes these traffic tickets are just, they become very afraid and they let them go. And they accumulate court fines, other things. Well, later down the road, they want to adjust. There is an opportunity for a petition through their children, through their spouse, through the law changing. Well, these traffic tickets that you didn’t take care of are going to come back and haunt you, period. They’re part of your record. They’re part of your fingerprints. They’re part of your name, and information, and date of birth. And so what happens with those old tickets now, they’re going to be an impediment for you to be able to move forward. So something very, very simple can have very, very, very large impact, and not just you’re right now life, but the future of your life, if they’re not dealt with correctly.
Chris Rike: But let’s say you get, well, obviously best case is you get dismissed, and you move forward. Let’s say though, that you’re found guilty for a misdemeanor, or a speeding ticket. Is that something… What’s the court going to do generally with that information? Can they report that to the federal authorities?
Jessica Cadavid: Yes. So as you know, we are not in a sanctuary city or state. And so what that means is that any law enforcement courts all the way to, like I said, police officers, are able to contact ICE. If you have any contact with them. It is the job of law enforcement to overturn someone that they feel or that they know or have certain knowledge that are not here in our country lawfully.
Chris Rike: And this just depends on the particular policies.
Jessica Cadavid: Yes. It depends on the particular policies. Certain places or in courts or in departments have a strict enforcement policy. Some have a discretionary policy. Some, like I said, it’s kind of dependent on who you are and the person that you kind of end up dealing with. But these very simple things can have very, very large impact in your life.
Chris Rike: Let’s say you’re undocumented. You get this misdemeanor conviction, nobody reports or anything. You go about your business, and let’s say you leave the country. And then let’s say you try and come back in lawfully. That conviction going to come into play at that point?
Jessica Cadavid: Yeah. So trying to come back in lawfully, that would be, you’ve decided to leave the country. So you’re going to be dealing now with the US Consulate in Mexico. US Consulate in Mexico and the USCIS, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services here really operate within the same forms. And I’m going to show you a little bit about what exactly are the questions that get asked, because those are very important questions. The questions are always asked. Have you ever been arrested? Have you ever been detained? What is the detention? What is exactly? Or have you ever been cited? So, I’ll share that information with you so you’re able to see it. Am I able to share my screen with you? Oh yes. Give me one sec.
So those are information that will be. And this simple traffic citation, it’s something that you’re going to have to disclose. Why? Because when any case comes up at all, the problem becomes this. You will have a set of fingerprints.
Chris Rike: When you’re trying to come in, a lot of times misdemeanor stuff, it varies. Usually there’s no fingerprints.
Jessica Cadavid: Technically. But what happens is those fingerprints for us are run against several systems across the board. So it goes not just-
Chris Rike: Let’s say for you, when you’re trying to come back in and then everywhere. Got it.
Jessica Cadavid: Yes. So those fingerprints for us, in every case that you have, it doesn’t matter, from renewing your Green Card, to becoming a citizen, to coming into the country, you’re going to have a picture and fingerprints taken. That picture and those fingerprints taken will be run against seven different systems, including state, federal, Facebook, internet, to see who you are. Who you are isn’t just somebody who is a felon. We want to know in depth in our system, not just if you are a criminal, but who are you in the nitty gritty? What are your opinions to coming in? One of the things is disclosing Facebook tags, names of Instagram, any email that you’ve ever had, any kind of social media contact that you have, all of that has to be disclosed to the US government. And if not, it gets kind of a little scary, because it sounds like big brother. But for example, things like Tinder things like bagel and cheese or something like this, they get run to make sure that if you say you’re married, but you’re on Tinder, you’re not in here.
So all of that gets run against state backgrounds and that’s where misdemeanors come in. So if anything gets reported out there, they’re going to want to know about it. But also more than that is a full disclosure, meaning that even if they don’t know about it, you have to tell them about it.
Chris Rike: Because it’s worse if you don’t tell them and then they find out about it, then you’re cooked.
Jessica Cadavid: Exactly. So one of the things is, our questions run to ask if they have ever… These questions were changed during the Trump administration, which changed our timeline for disclosures. Many times the timelines for disclosures were about five to 10 years. What have you been doing the last five years? What have you been done the last 10 years? So if things were outside of that time, I don’t really have that level of disclosure. I don’t have that duty of disclosure. However, that changed under the Trump administration by adding further backgrounds, not just to every case, but making sure that those questions also known as those timelines have been enlarged. The questions now ask, have you ever. Meaning ever. Meaning ever, ever, ever. It’s really hard as a lawyer because it’s an overbroad question that is very much what we believe it’s unconstitutional because it covers too many things. We work on our constitutional standards. So overbroad is one of the things that we look at. However, this has not been brought up to a challenge. It’s remained. It’s here to stay. And so for the last four years, this has been our reporting and our duty to show. So I am going to see if I can share my screen. And then, hold on.
Chris Rike: Let’s say you disclose a misdemeanor speeding violation. Is that something that’s going to prevent entry or is that something that’s going to require an explanation?
Jessica Cadavid: So for us, simple things like misdemeanors are not a one-in-all. Because like I said, we work on a moral standard, but we’re looking at a balance of good versus bad. Are we having simply one ticket ever, or are we looking at a consistent repeat offender, or are we looking at somebody who is not obeying the basic simple of traffic laws? One of the things that it’s kind of sneaky, is, do you have more than three speeding tickets? Having more than three speeding tickets sounds silly, but USCIS, Consulates, and other issues, you’re not considered a law-abiding citizen. One, it’s a misdemeanor. Two, keeps going. And three again, what is the lesson that you’ve learned? What is it that you are looking at?
So anything that is a consistent pattern or consistent repeat of issues, it’s something that they really take a look. Because for us, the government’s job is to tell us no, and find reasons to tell us no. Our job is to find ways to say yes, and there must be a balance in between. Between what has this person done that is really good. Hey, they’ve paid all their taxes. They’ve never had any other issues. They’ve learned their lesson. We’re sorry. We didn’t adhere to basic traffic laws. Or is this a consistent pattern of, I’m not obeying period.
Chris Rike: So it sounds like there’s a lot of gray area with something low level like a speeding ticket. What about if it’s like a DUI or a leaving the scene of an accident charge, something like that?
Jessica Cadavid: Those are a little bit bigger. So anything that has to do with a DUI is taken extremely serious by immigration. Is an extremely serious offense due to the fact that whether from misdemeanor all the way to any type of criminal offense and felony, the issue is that not only you have put your life at risk, but you have put the risk of lives of others on the road. And those others on the road are Americans. And so that balancing is extremely hard. And DUIs often, very often, not only land people in deportation, but also really, truly prevent them from seeking status. For example, DACA is one. Young people out there that have DACA, they find themselves with a DUI, well, that has extreme, extreme consequences. Same thing for naturalization. It will prevent you from naturalizing due to the fact that you did not meet a good moral character standard.
And so it can have severe, severe consequences. Same thing with criminal speeding. All of it due to the fact that now you’re not, I’m very good. Now you got criminal behind in your background. And so, because you have that tag, I hate to say that, now we got to take a look deeper into who you really are, and are you a person that we want here? And those are the questions that the officers are having to ask themselves. And we are having to balance that. So those are some things very important to acknowledge or know when you are facing, I have a speeding ticket, man, I should have taken an Uber, but I didn’t. I got in my car. Those are very serious things that not only you must consult with a criminal attorney, but you also must consult with an immigration attorney to see what are you looking, and what is the road going to look like down the road for you because of this.
Chris Rike: It can make a lot of sense to talk to you if you’re dealing with something like that so you at least understand how that all could fit into your future.
Jessica Cadavid: Yes. This is really important. Knowledge is the most important thing about immigration. Why? Because our laws are not inputted into stone. Our laws change very often. There’s clients that haven’t had a path and things change, and now they have a path. We’re looking at a possible change of reform. You got a background. If reform comes around, what is going to be that they’re going to take a look at it if you have not taken care of this? And so those are really important. Our office provides consultations, and we do that via Zoom as well. Once we hit the pandemic, we changed a lot. And part of that is we do a nighttime consultations in the evening. So it’s really easy because you’re at home. I’m not asking you to miss work, but I am asking you, this is important. And you got to take care of it because I don’t want it to come of the closet, like Halloween on the middle of your adjustment and be like, tah-dah. You forgot about me. Skeletons are the worst.
Chris Rike: Yeah, I can imagine. Okay. So are there any misdemeanors, it was just like a complete bar or it’s just kind of like, you might have to wait some time, let it get older, and show that you’ve kind of reformed to either get reentry or?
Jessica Cadavid: Misdemeanors that are complete bar is really going to be a DUI. Yes. So DUIs are extreme for really mostly anybody. And going through an immigration process, a DUI is a very, very high crime, mainly because it’s a crime of knowledge. You had a choice, you got in the car. You put other people at risk. And really, it’s one of the things that… I’ve been doing this job for about seven years now, and it’s one of those things that I see judges officers, because we all understand that drinking and driving is bad. That’s kind of the bottom line. And so if we’re starting from, it’s bad and you already did it, your officer isn’t looking at that kindly. And because we all have a societal understanding of, drinking and driving is bad, it puts people at risk. It kills people. No, don’t do it. And if you do, it’s going to come down pretty hard. You’re already starting at a no-place. Don’t start less.
Chris Rike: So talking DUIs, how does marijuana plan all those, these days may have states making it legal, but it’s still illegal on the federal level.
Jessica Cadavid: So here is my take on cannabis. Cannabis is still a schedule-one drug, and it is still an absolute no for any kind of immigration purposes. Cannabis is still part of the medical determination. So in any type of case, so if you’re looking to come into the United States, you’re going to have a medical exam. If you’re in the United States looking to adjust, you’re going to have a medical exam. And you’re going to have a blood test because they’re looking for drugs. We are looking for drugs. That is it. Marijuana, even though it has proven to have extreme medicinal properties, and states realize that, that is not the case of the federal government. And we follow federal law. And that means it is a schedule-one drug. If you use it, touch it, see it, smell it, it’s not good.
Chris Rike: So a conviction for possession is all over.
Jessica Cadavid: Yeah. A conviction, it’s no. There’s lots of drug questions on all of the forms. Three more drug questions were added, because drugs are very serious. One of the things that it’s easy way to understand, there’s a war on drugs, period. Which side are you on? And that is the, what goes through our officer’s minds. Hey, there’s a war on drugs. Are you doing drugs? Then that means that you’re okay with drugs, and we’re not okay with drugs. We don’t want drugs in our communities. We don’t want drugs in all of that. Even though as cannabis has shown to have extreme medicinal properties, it is just like alcohol, especially here in Arizona and Portland, lots of the west coast, unfortunately that’s not the case for the federal government. We have a conflict in the law. And because we have a conflict on the law, then we look to conflict in the law, and federal rule trumps over any state laws.
So unfortunately for those out there, no. One of the things that can be dangerous, and this is interesting, is the fact that what about your spouse? You’re a US citizen and you have the freedom to engage in recreational medicinal use of cannabis. But your spouse is undocumented going through an immigration process or looking to naturalize. And so now not only do you have conflict in the law, but you also have conflict in your house. Because unfortunately it’s still a schedule-one drug. It doesn’t matter how you take a look at it. Doesn’t matter who’s using it. It’s still a schedule-one drug, unfortunately. And until that is resolved within the federal system, and until cannabis is taken off the schedule-one drug, it’s really like cocaine, meth. It could be simple possession, simple use. Unfortunately, that’s not it.
Chris Rike: We see a lot of people forget that. And they get [crosstalk 00:28:58].
Jessica Cadavid: The new one that is going to be coming out is going to be DUIs, not just because of alcohol, but because of cannabis. Smoking and driving is a big one coming up for us. And that is exactly it. It’s going to account, and it’s going to be treated as such. And we’re not sure if it may have a harsher punishment in our system due to the fact that alcohol isn’t a schedule-one drug, but cannabis is. So now you’re drinking and smoking. It’s kind of like, are you drinking and bumping cocaine? And so it’s something to really take a look at, and that problem that we’re going to continue seeing this conflict in the law that is very, very hard right now.
Chris Rike: So we’ve kind of been talking to the context of somebody who is undocumented, and then those consequences, what happens if they leave [inaudible 00:29:55] all these consequences. Is it a similar situation where somebody is you’re on a worker, student visa?
Jessica Cadavid: Yes. All of it is [crosstalk 00:30:04].
Chris Rike: It’s just officer report discretion of that violation gets reported. And then when they go to renew their visa, they got to have all the same issue, essentially.
Jessica Cadavid: Correct. Any visa, any process, any adjustment. Until you really get off the system, my office really works with my clients, not just through the adjustment process, but in order to remind them the importance of becoming a legal, permanent resident, but not only to become, I’m sorry, a naturalized citizen due to the fact that that’s really, when you leave the system. One of the funny things that many, many people believe is that once you’re a legal, permanent resident, that’s it. You’re good. Actually it does not the case. Even with criminal activity, DUIs, say if you have an extreme DUI and the government feels that, you’ve had other things in your background, they are able to still place you any deportation proceeding. Legal permanent residency is not permanent. It’s just the ability to be here for a longer term.
So naturalizing, applying for naturalization specially right now, things are moving really great. Naturalization is moving a little bit faster and it’s a good time to apply. It’s really the true of getting off the system and leaving the system in order for you to really have complete freedom.
Chris Rike: So if you’re a permanent resident, you don’t have any additional productions over somebody essentially from, you can still get deported for DUI or something along those lines. What about for entering and leaving the country? Let’s say you got that excessive speed conviction. Are you going to get additional scrutiny, when you try and come back in?
Jessica Cadavid: Entry into the United States is at the discretion of the immigration officer. This law of immigration is one that covers including United States citizens, actually. Every person must coming through our borders must do immigration. That’s why everybody that leaves and comes back, we go through immigration. And so we have global entry, all of this. So even as a United States citizen, you don’t notice that immigration law covers you. It’s a very broad law that not many of us recognize as being, why am I having, why am I a citizen, but still having to do this? But yes, it can have consequences. Everything in this system is reportable. So if the officer can take a look at your information, notice that you have an excessive speeding, they might not and deny you entry. So I’ve had people that have to go through second inspection.
Second inspection is at the airport or at a port of entry where ICE would you an extensive background in order to allow you to come in. They’ll do an interview. And this is about six to eight hours of being detained and looking at your background to see if you’re worth coming. And even after all of that, they can still say, we don’t want you. So look, it’s silly, but really obeying basic traffic things is, if I can’t trust you in the small, then can I trust you in the big?
Chris Rike: No. A lot of people think come to Arizona to get tripped up, particularly with excessive speed, because most states don’t have a similar law. So like in California, you’re gone 95 in a 65, you get a civil speeding ticket. And then in Arizona, depending on the officer, you’ll get excessive speed ticket, or you might even get booked into jail for a few hours for that. And people are always [inaudible 00:33:53].
Jessica Cadavid: Exactly. So now you’re looking at that jail time. Now you’re looking at a visit from ICE because they’re right there from you. That’s simple, I was going a little fast and not driving save. And now I just thought it was going to be a couple hours. Well, it turned into a couple of months you go away for something very simple.
Chris Rike: What a mess.
Jessica Cadavid: Best advice is follow… The traffic rules are real important.
Chris Rike: Yeah. And there’s a lot of them that you don’t… I didn’t know them all until I started doing traffic law. I mean, there are very many. Another thing that comes up. So, in the criminal court system, a conviction is that the judge enters a judgment against you. That’s not for immigration. Conviction is broad. Because basically what, any admission of the facts is a conviction.
Jessica Cadavid: So for us, a lot of times immigration and criminal law run together. We meet at a nexus, but they’re very different and parallel. Because a conviction for us is a lot of things, even if you’re having to do a diversion program. So it’s like, I just had to do some classes. And so my clients tell me all the time, I just had to do some classes. Because in true and reality, the reason that they make it seem like nothing, it’s because they really felt like it was very simple, it was nothing. Just had to do some classes. Well, those classes are a conviction. It’s an admission of guilt.
Chris Rike: Yeah. We see that they have to do a guilty plea on the front end and the court prefers entering judgment. So they do the classes and the court dismisses it, but we still have that guilty plea, which is then a conviction for immigration purposes.
Jessica Cadavid: That’s what it is. That’s where we lie. It’s like, you said you did this. What’s happening? So for us, it’s more like in a simple, really basic ways, think about your parent. You have to tell your parent everything. You walk through that door and you’re like, where are you? What were you doing? What happened? It’s kind of the same disclosure you’re saying. And you’re just kind of have this invisible person walking with you at all times, asking and accounting for everything that you’ve done. And for us conviction is a really big thing. One of the biggest things as well is, well, it got dismissed after several years, or it got expunged or it got sealed. I don’t have to close it. That’s not the case. You have to disclose it. It must be disclosed. It’s a full disclosure policy. And like we said, the question states, have you ever. It doesn’t say anything. So that’s one of the biggest things I also hear. Well, it’s been sealed. I don’t have to say anything. Well, no.
Chris Rike: Yeah, I guess in Arizona we can get it set aside, but it’s still going to show on your criminal background that you have this conviction and it was set aside, and it doesn’t go away.
Jessica Cadavid: Yeah. It does not. For us, does not go away. And you have a reporting duty. You have to say, I’ve done this. And so whether it gets set aside, it does not, it gets sealed, it does not, it’s important for your employment and for your credit and for your life and for different things. But for immigration, it still must be disclosed.
Chris Rike: What about if you have a crime was committed when you were a juvenile? So like, if you’re a citizen, you do whatever when you’re 16, you can actually get the records destroyed.
Jessica Cadavid: Correct. So juveniles are really interesting because certain things have still to be disclosed while they’re taking into account in that juvenile state. However, a lot of it still gets an adult standard. So things like shoplifting, you have a petty theft exception, which is less than $250 or anything above that, it doesn’t really matter. Anything with drugs. Drugs. Drugs are a no.
Chris Rike: And all those are going to follow you into adulthood and immigration.
Jessica Cadavid: Yes. I’ve had a lot of juveniles that have gotten in trouble for juvenile things. And we don’t really think of a really big, but for them, they are. And unfortunately are the big ones. I was destroying property, I was doing drugs. Outside curfew on, it’s like I was walking the streets at like 11:30 PM at night. Anything with arms. No, nothing with guns. Guns are an absolute hard-no as equal as drugs. Okay. So that’s a really big one. Like discharging a gun in like city property or like city ordinance or near like a home or anything like that, those are really big ones as well, due to the fact that it has to do with a weapon. So you’re not allowed to really obtain a gun. They don’t want you to have any kind of weapons trainings. So those are really, like I said, some small things can become a really big thing in our system.
Chris Rike: But it seems like something we run into is there are no good choices. Like we get a criminal case and the facts are not in our favor, it’s already happened. What do you do when there’s no… Sometimes there’s just no good choices in any way.
Jessica Cadavid: A lot of help of the community, that is really community service, churches, picking up trash. Listen, it’s a balance between a yes and a no, and a good moral standard. How did you learn your lesson and how did you change? How can you demonstrate that with evidence? Look, a lot of my clients tell me, well, I’ve changed. Great. That’s wonderful. Show me. I think that your word is great. And I think that you’re a wonderful person, but I cannot… My system only works on documents. I don’t ever send emails. That’s not a thing that we have. We send letters to each other. And so I have to provide the government with how were you good. And your word doesn’t count. Because it’s not great.
And so show me with documentation, from the moment I receive this issue, from the moment I had this issue, this is how my life changed. I stopped drinking, went to AA every meeting. Did so many. Started. I even got a sponsor. I got, and then I became a sponsor. I changed my life. Or I decided I’m picking up trash on the side of the road. Here’s all my community service hours. Soup kitchens, anything that really helps the community to show that like, after my really life around, I’ve learned. And also I love those community services have signatures and time logs and places and letters of recommendation about your good moral character. Participating in church services, a part of a community, all of that goes to a task to your character. Your character is what is in question here. Not your actions, not anything, but it’s who you are. Do we want you?
Chris Rike: So if you’re in one of those situations where you’re not getting out in everyone, it kind of changes your rehabilitation for your character at that point. So even if your application to naturalize is delayed, you’re going to use that time to rehabilitate.
Jessica Cadavid: Yeah. Rehabilitation is one of the best things I can tell my clients to be able to show, this is what I’ve done. But most important, save those documents, save them. Take pictures, scan them, do something. Write down the organization that you did them with. Why? Like I said, if down the road the law changes, you decide to naturalize. If anything comes up, all of this is going to be really important evidence. So I am a minimalist. I love not having a lot of things. I appreciate my super empty, open spaces and cleanliness. However, for my clients, hoard. If you’re out there listen to me, hoard the documents, make sure that they are safe. Make sure that every time you move, you move them in a place that you know where they’re going to be. Go invest in a safe. Go put them in a place that you know where they’re going to be in your possession at all times.
No idea how many times I’ve heard, I used to have these documents, but I lost them. Or, I used to have this, but it’s now gone. And even though some documents or some things were able to retrieve, just because records are still existing today, that makes it twice as hard for you. And it’s not fresh and it’s not new. And we can’t show in the term in a lot of things. So hear me out there, keep your documents, hoard.
Chris Rike: Yeah. It sounds like putting aside that you could help them get accomplish the immigration goals. They need to talk to you for, to understand how the criminal case might impact it. They probably need you to help put together a plan on how to achieve their goals if they’re dealing with a criminal case, what are they going to do after that, to align themselves up to get to go where they want to be.
Jessica Cadavid: Exactly. So those are some things important. My office makes plans for you. So what we do is, we all want to have an understanding of what’s happening. And that really is a big thing that we do. Knowledge is so important. So many clients come to me and tell me, “I’m not sure what happened.” Well, it happened to you. What do you mean? And it’s lack of understanding, lack of communication, and that isn’t serving my client’s purpose for a better life. I’m their counselor and my clients have extreme different backgrounds.
Some clients come from very difficult situations, or very low understanding and communications with their families. So their lack of understanding of what is actually happening to them, is very low. And I don’t appreciate that, in the fact that some people dismiss that, I don’t. You need a plan for your life. And we are here to give you one. If you don’t have one right now, we’ll tell you, this is what’s coming down the road. immigration is on the news daily. It’s on everywhere. It’s something that we talk about. It’s something that is a central point of everything right now. And the law isn’t steady for us. For example, employment law, they’ve had civil rights law since 1968. My law changed last week. So definitely-
Chris Rike: Keep up.
Jessica Cadavid: Keep up. But have your case looked at consistently. Have other people look at different strategies. And there’s a lot of things. Like I said, this administration’s promise is that a lot of these issues are going to be resolved in order to make our system maybe a little bit smoother, where we’re not getting cut up on such small things. But yeah, we’re not sure just because we’re coming from an administration that really much cared about the very little things. If little things are not put together, then you can’t have the big thing. So like I said, it’s only been a few months, and we’ve had severe changes from the last four years. So we’re getting ready for our next four years, and see what changes they’re going to be. So if you’re out there and aren’t documented, have your case looked at.
If you are out there and looking to do naturalization, and you’ve had any kind of traffic citations, any kind of issues, any kind of misdemeanors, don’t go alone to your naturalization interview. Make sure you hired or looked for an attorney to give you some pointers. A lot of attorneys, even my office would take a look at your case. And we’ll go with you to your interview to make sure that you’re not facing immigration alone. They are not your friend, and they’re not there for you. They are not.
Chris Rike: They’re designed to elicit answers that are going to keep you out.
Jessica Cadavid: Their job is to say no. And look, everybody’s got a job. It isn’t right. It isn’t wrong. It isn’t anything. It’s just their job. That’s their policy right now. And that’s okay. But that doesn’t mean that you have to be that way, and give yourself up to the lion. No. Have a fighter come up. So those are some important things to always take a look at. Look, talk to an attorney, talk to somebody. Make sure that even if you think it’s silly, it might not be to that immigration officer.
Chris Rike: Make sense. And we’ll add your contact info in too and put it in the comments there, and I recommend that anybody, when we see they’re not a US citizen to reach out to you and have that conversation, at least they understand what impact their criminal case might have on that. It is specialized. We’re all specialized. Well, we can’t use that word. We’re all focused on a particular area of practice. And it’s a lot of work to keep up on your own area that we do. And we’re really good at that. But we don’t do immigration. So they need to talk to you.
Jessica Cadavid: It’s funny, because that’s exactly what I tell my clients. Like, look, if I got a foot problem, I’m not going to a heart surgeon. Like that’s just kind of it. And it’s silly and it’s funny. I know, another thing I tell my clients is this. My cancer is not your cancer, we’re all different. And we all have a whole different set of patterns, problems, entries, situations. And how that situation unrolled, it never unrolls the same, even if it might be. Everybody’s got something different. Treat your case that way. That’s okay. Right? Treat your case in a way that it’s you. It’s your issue. It’s your case. It’s your morality. Because at the end of the day, that’s our standard. How moral are you? How good are you? And how can you show me that.
Chris Rike: Makes sense. And it’s so broad, and we don’t know what that federal agents’ going to think.
Jessica Cadavid: I have no idea. You know, it is one of those things that my clients. We have a fun practice. My practice is fun, and I care for my clients. But we do a lot of things even when we do go to interviews. We play a Newlywed Game. We play Do you know who wants to be a millionaire, as we imagine immigration practices. Again, we try to make it really fun because unfortunately, I know that I need to be really well prepared for a lot of things, I don’t know, probably. We don’t have discovery in our practice. So we often get surprised with surprise evidence.
As I discussed previously, we’ve had that moment of like, well, if you’re married, why on Tinder looking for women? Oh, well, you did. We didn’t discuss that. What’s going on there? And so those are surprised evidence. Those moments are uncomfortable for everybody. So it’s important.
Chris Rike: But this goes back to, tell your attorney everything because they’re trying to help.
Jessica Cadavid: Yes.
Chris Rike: We don’t like surprises.
Jessica Cadavid: No, I am not a surprise person. I don’t even like surprise parties. Just seems really attacking. Surprise. [inaudible 00:50:53]. But no, look. I’ve heard everything. Everything. And is it good? Is it bad? I don’t know. I’m not here to judge you. I’m here to help you. I have no judgment. Zero. My job is to look at a set of evidence, and figure out how that works best in my case, and in my plan. What feeling behind that? Is it right? Is it wrong? Did you do it? Did you not? I’m not here to judge you. That’s not for me. That’s between you and your partner or upstairs, not for me. But I am here to help you through all of those, and advocate the fact that you are a good person.
And you know what? I tell this to everybody. Everybody does good and bad. And we all have those moments that is like, I shouldn’t have been speeding. Everybody, we all have that. But some of us have the ability to fix it, really simple. Some of them have carried severe consequences. Look, something simple, it’s really big. Well get make sure to just have a plan on what you’re going to do with that.
Chris Rike: I like it. That makes a bad situation better out of the plan. There’s been so much great information. And I’m really excited to be able to share that. Thanks, Jessica.
Jessica Cadavid: Thanks, Chris. I really appreciate you having me. I will send out the information for you to post it as well, so your clients are able to see what the actual questions from immigration are on the questionnaires that we get from them. And so like that, they’ll be able to focus like, this is what is actually being asked of me down the road, or I’m starting to prepare for what is being asked of me.
Chris Rike: Awesome. I’ll link to those too. And then I’m also going to put this on our website, and I’ll put those forms up there and written text to go with this for everybody, as well.
Jessica Cadavid: Awesome. That sounds great. Thank you so much for having me.
Chris Rike: Appreciate it.