Should Dharun Ravi be deported to India?

Dharun Ravi is the 20-year old former Rutgers student whose acts of spying on his gay roommate, Tyler Clementi, and publicizing Mr. Clementi’s intimate encounters with another man, drove Mr. Clementi to commit suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge on September 22, 2010. On March 16 of this year, Mr. Ravi was convicted in a New Jersey court on all 15 criminal charges brought against him for invasion of privacy, attempted invasion of privacy, bias intimidation, tampering with physical evidence, witness tampering, and hindering apprehension or prosecution.

While sentencing for Mr. Ravi’s crimes is not scheduled until May 21, and his lawyer has announced his intention to appeal the convictions, Mr. Ravi is believed to face up to 10 years in prison and then possible deportation to India, where he was born and from which he immigrated with his parents as a child. Although the Ravi family all held green cards entitling them to reside in the U.S., none of them chose to become U.S. citizens.

If either of Mr. Ravi’s parents had naturalized before he turned 18, he would automatically have become a U.S. citizen and immune from deportation regardless of any crimes committed. Because they did not, Mr. Ravi remains an alien and at risk of deportation upon completion of his criminal sentence.

Whether he is in fact deportable under Section 237 of the Immigration and Nationality Act is not entirely clear. Even if his crimes constitute “crimes of moral turpitude”, as they most likely do, those crimes generally make an alien deportable only if committed within five years of admission to the United States. If Mr. Ravi resided legally in the U.S. for more than five years before committing his crimes, the government would have to identify another statutory ground for deporting Mr. Ravi.

An alien convicted of the crime of stalking is deportable regardless of how many years since admission. But it’s questionable whether Mr. Ravi’s convictions for invasion of privacy could be construed as stalking.

The most likely ground for finding Mr. Ravi deportable would be for conviction for “an aggravated felony” at any time after admission to the United States. The long statutory list of crimes constituting aggravated felonies includes, “an offense relating to obstruction of justice,…. or subornation of perjury,…. for which the term of imprisonment is at least one year.”

Even if Mr. Ravi’s New Jersey criminal convictions meet the definition of aggravated felony making him deportable, the questions remain of whether the agency responsible for deportations will or should seek to deport him. That agency is the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, commonly known by its acronym “ICE”.

ICE has been operating under a controversial Obama administration directive to exercise “prosecutorial discretion” against seeking deportation of deportable aliens who have not been convicted of serious crimes and are not deemed threats to national security. Thus millions of deportable aliens who were inadmissible when they entered illegally, or who overstayed their temporary visas, have been allowed to remain in the U.S. free of ICE enforcement actions.

So even if ICE can make the legal case for deportation of Mr. Ravi to India, it’s unclear whether the Obama administration will allow ICE to do so. And even if the administration allowed ICE to truly exercise its independent prosecutorial discretion, there’s the basic question of whether Mr. Ravi should be subjected to deportation for his crimes. What do you think?

I was very put off by Mr. Ravi’s comments to ABC News that he did not feel responsible for Mr. Clementi’s death. It’s a mystery to me why his lawyer, who wisely kept Mr. Ravi from testifying at his trial, is now allowing him to make damaging remarks portraying himself as a callous twit.

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