Potential Dharun Ravi Deportation Shows Complexity of U.S. Immigration Laws

Now that Rutgers University student Dharun Ravi has been convicted of bias intimidation and invasion of privacy, the question becomes, will he be deported from the United States to his native India? Ravi is apparently a U.S. lawful permanent resident (green card holder), which means he is subject to the grounds of deportability set forth in the Immigration and Nationality Act (I.N.A.). (If Ravi had become a naturalized citizen, he would have been safe from deportation — but at age 20, he has been eligible to apply for only two years — probably didn’t get around to it.)

Ravi’s case presents a classic example, however, of the difficulties of determining which crimes make a person deportable. With few exceptions, there’s no easy, cut and dried list to follow. It’s a matter of matching state law and the facts of the case to the federal statutes. David Isaacson, an immigration attorney with Cyrus D. Mehta and Associates told New Jersey Public Radio reporter Nancy Solomon, “It would take him several hours of research, if not days, to determine how the Ravi convictions fit into the federal statutes.” (He’s a respected attorney, and not exaggerating! Okay, maybe exaggerating a little.)

Attorney Matthew Kolken did a helpful blog post on the case — and posited that Ravi is probably not deportable — but noted that, ” I don’t have enough information to be able to answer the question . . . [and] don’t have the time today to dig up any more of the facts.”

Even if Ravi is deportable, whether the prosecutors choose to act on this is a matter of discretion. Prosecutorial discretion by the immigration authorities has been in the news a lot lately, with this administration trying to create some consistency and focus resources only on the most serious criminals or those with few meaningful ties to the United States. Some commentators have predicted that, given the high-profile nature of the case, the immigration authorities would pursue deportation. Then again, the judge issued a recommendation against it. That’s not binding, but government authorities don’t  like to step on each others toes. Stay tuned . . . .