The cast of The Real Housewives of New Jersey signed up to have their lives televised, their dirty laundry aired, and their family dramas battled out for its faithful audience since the series premiered in 2009. But, one of the couples, Teresa and Giuseppe “Joe” Giudice, has an unwelcomed episode to add to their real life drama: they have been indicted on federal charges of bank and bankruptcy fraud. According to the federal indictment, the Giudices allegedly failed to file tax returns, falsified loan applications, and concealed assets in their bankruptcy petition.

If convicted of these charges, the Giudices will be facing a maximum sentence of more than 50 years in prison. Joe Giudice, if convicted of these charges and after serving prison terms, will be forcibly removed from the United States back to his home country of Italy. That’s because Joe Giudice is a permanent resident of the United States and a citizen of Italy. Joe came to the United States from Italy at a young age and was eligible to apply to become a U.S. citizen having met the naturalization requirements. But he never applied and that decision may have devastating immigration consequences for him.

Our immigration law renders certain noncitizens including permanent residents like Joe Giudice removable (or “deportable”) from the United States if convicted either of a crime that the immigration laws consider an “aggravated felony” or a crime of “moral turpitude.” An “aggravated felony” need not be “aggravated” or a “felony” for its perpetrator to face the immigration consequences of being convicted of an “aggravated felony.” Under our immigration laws, the definition of “aggravated felony” covers more than 30 types of offenses, including simple battery, theft, filing a false tax return, and failing to appear in court. Therefore, even if a non-citizen is convicted of a crime that some states classify as a misdemeanor, that crime can be found to be an “aggravated felony” under our immigration law, and the noncitizen—even a legal permanent resident who has resided in the United States for most of his or her life—can face deportation. Once deported, he or she can never return to the United States.

So, even if the more serious charges of bank and bankruptcy fraud against Joe Giudice are dismissed, if he is convicted of tax evasion, an immigration court will most likely find him guilty of an “aggravated felony,” which will be the basis for his removal from the United States. No matter how famous Joe Giudice may be or the extreme hardship his deportation may bring to his spouse and children all of whom are citizens of United States, his fate in the immigration court seems unstoppable.

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