Leigh Ann Caldwell, WASHINGTON (CNN) — Justin Bieber is allowed to stay in the United States — for now.
The White House won’t comment on a petition signed by more than 270,000 asking for the pop star to be deported for his repeated starring role in famous-people-behaving-badly.
You might not care about the Canadian and his “beliebers,” but the 20-year-old’s misbehavior and run-ins with the law raise some serious questions about immigration law enforcement. Like, is Bieber getting some serious special treatment?
President Barack Obama has deported more people than any other president, causing him to be known as the “deporter-in-chief” in some sectors of the immigration community.
But isn’t Bieber here legally? He sure is. But it’s not only illegal immigrants who are receiving deportation orders.
The Immigration Policy Center estimated that 10% of the people deported between 1997 and 2007 were legally living in the United States.
While the Obama administration deported nearly 1.6 million people in the last four years, it’s unclear how many were in the country legally.
The administration doesn’t reveal those statistics. An immigration tracking division of Syracuse University, TRAC, is currently suing the Department of Homeland Security for failing to release a wide range of data on deportations and detentions.
But immigration advocates believe the number has gone up since Obama came into office, not only due to an increase in deportations, but also because of anecdotal evidence.
They are seeing an increase in home raids of legal residents and there are stories like that of Navy veteran Howard Dean Bailey, who was deported in 2010 over a years-old drug offense.
Yes, legal residents are getting kicked out because of a previous crime.
According to a 1996 immigration law, it doesn’t matter how long ago people committed their crime and the types of crimes eligible for deportation are vast and expanding.
For instance, shoplifting and marijuana possession often qualify.
Justin Bieber has a lot of potential charges under his belt.
In January he was charged with driving under the influence in Miami. He also has a pending assault charge and separate vandalism charges for egging his neighbor’s house.
As with all deportations, the president has the “inherent power to choose which cases to act on,” said Richard A. Boswell, immigration law professor at the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law. It’s called “prosecutorial discretion.”
But fortunately for Bieber — and possibly the President who would upset millions of teen fans — is that his DUI is not a deportable offense. His vandalism charge probably isn’t either. His assault charge might be, experts say.
Matthew Kolodziej, legislative fellow at the Immigration Policy Center, said Bieber could potentially be charged with a crime of moral turpitude, which he described as “an abstract concept whose definition has expanded over the years.”
In sum, it’s a judgment of a person’s character and intent for purposes of immigration.
“A good immigration lawyer won’t let that happen and I’m sure (Bieber) will be very well represented,” Kolodziej said.
Bieber also has another advantage. He never got a green card. Bieber is in the country on a visa for people with “extraordinary” abilities.
His visa has to be renewed at some point, however, and moral turpitude could be taken into consideration.
But, like Kolodziej said, his well-paid legal team probably won’t let that happen.
Bieber’s attorneys are reportedly working out a plea deal for some of Bieber’s crimes. If his legal team is any good, they would advise him that even a plea doesn’t protect him from future immigration consequences.
But for many legal immigrants, they don’t have the resources to hire top immigration and criminal attorneys to help navigate the system.
You get what you pay for.