When you are the family member of an immigrant, you may fear every day that the government will come and send away your loved one forever. There are many reasons deportation, or removal from the U.S., can happen, and one of them is committing a crime.

It is not unreasonable that someone who continually breaks the law or is a danger to others may not be able to stay. However, the law is inconsistent, too strict and always changing when it comes to defining crimes that qualify an immigrant for removal.

Crimes that could lead to deportation

The law is supposed to target severe or violent crimes, such as drug offenses and murder. Repeat offenders are also at high risk of removal. Immigrants committing violence, especially repeatedly, is actually rarer than people think, reports the Cato Institute. Only 12 percent of removals in eight years involved violent acts, with less than 1 percent comprising murder.

Unfortunately, the reality is that minor crimes – and even no crime at all – have also led to deportation. It does not matter if your loved one has already served a prison sentence, made restitution, did not receive a conviction or avoided penalties. Federal officials can be unpredictable and too eager in their selection of whom to take out of the country.

How the law may change

Georgia Representative Karen Handel proposed a bill that would clearly define aggravated felonies under immigration law, including the following:

  • Burglary
  • Attempted kidnapping
  • Threatened, attempted or actual use of physical force against a person or property
  • Voluntary manslaughter (killing out of intense emotion)
  • Assault on law enforcement
  • Human trafficking

The bill passed in the House of Representatives in September of 2018 and has gone to the Senate. If it passes there, it would make it easier for the government to deport immigrants with convictions of these crimes and others.