Canadian pop star Justin Bieber may soon face felony charges for allegedly egging his neighbor’s mansion. On the small chance that Bieber is convicted, he could face possible deportation because of a 1996 federal immigration law that makes felony convictions a deportable offense.
Bieber is in the United States on an O-1 visa, which is granted to people with “extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics.” He allegedly caused $20,000 worth of damage to his neighbor’s mansion, a vandalism charge upped to a felony because the damage exceeds $400. Because of the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, immigrants who have criminal charges can be deported. But even if one were to chalk up the egging to a bad prank, Bieber also reportedly assaulted a man in the Hamptons last year, which is designated as an aggravated felony. Thanks to expensive lawyers, that charge didn’t stick and Bieber has never and probably will never see the inside of an immigration detention center.
Bieber’s possible deportation underscores a problem that 1,200 immigrants, including lawful permanent residents, experience every day. Some of those immigrants with similar felony charges and many more convicted of lower-level offenses, are deported and permanently banned from ever seeing their families. What’s more, less than one out of nine immigrants detained by local authorities on behalf of immigration enforcement officials have committed serious offenses.
There are thousands of immigrants who are put into deportation proceedings for minor infractions, such as Roxana Santos, who couldn’t produce identification to officers while eating a sandwich and Laura S, who was stopped for a driving infraction and later found dead in a burning vehicle after her deportation.
Even many of the immigrants with “serious” felony charges comparable to Bieber’s, have compelling stories and are in deportation proceedings. One example is Peter Ingleton, a lawful permanent resident who played a small role in an insurance fraud scheme four years ago. His lawyer Andrea Saenz told ThinkProgress that Ingleton has lived in the United States for more than 20 years and “has nowhere to go in the country of his birth, which he hasn’t seen since he was 13.” He would also leave behind an 11-year-old son, a compassionate wife, and very loving in-laws.