Legal Immigrants Gain New Protections in Washington

Immigrants legally living in the United States will benefit from a new law passed in Washington State that will reduce the maximum penalty for gross misdemeanors from 365 days to 364, the Seattle Times reports.

The one-day difference will likely reduce the number of legal immigrants who get deported after being convicted of drunk driving, harassment and less-severe thefts or assaults. Legal residents of the US covered by this reduction include those with green cards and political refugees.

Federal laws state that legal residents will be deported after getting a prison sentence of 365 days or more, even if part of the sentence is suspended. In all domestic violence cases, legal residents are always deported, regardless of the length of the sentence.

Jorge Baron, executive director of the Northwest Immigration Rights Project, told the publication that this sentencing alteration will leave room for more discretion by immigration officials on a case-to-case basis. While reducing the maximum sentence doesn’t guarantee that legal residents will be free from facing deportation for their crime, it gives judges the chance to review each case and learn about the person involved before making the decision.

According to the US Census, immigrants from Asian and Hispanic countries are the two largest foreign-born groups in the country.