University provides legal help to those from abroad

Joseph Zucker

If an international student gets charged with a crime, Student Legal Services is available to provide legal help.

“We probably get a disproportionate amount of international students, especially in the driving area,” said Carol Crimi, senior staff attorney for Student Legal Services.

David DiMaria, director of International Student Recruitment, Admissions and Advising, said the university provides information regarding the United States legal system.

“All international students are expected to attend a special orientation program organized by the Office of International Affairs prior to the start of their first semester,” DiMaria said.

DiMaria said the program includes speakers from multiple offices across campus. Topics include cultural adjustment, campus resources and immigration regulations. The Office of International Affairs, Police Services and Student Legal Services provide information relevant to their areas of expertise.

Kent Police Lt. Paul Canfield said any language barrier is generally not an issue for officers.

“We’re just giving them basic orders,” Canfield said. “There isn’t a lot of talking that needs to be done. The department has some translator guides in house for officers to look at.”

DiMaria said the university provides translators if necessary.

“The Office of International Affairs maintains a list of volunteers willing to assist in emergency situations until other arrangements can be made,” he said.

Canfield said the Kent Police doesn’t arrest non-English speaking people very often. When the situation does arise, it’s generally not a student.

After a student gets arrested, he or she has to deal with the United States court system. In addition, the student has to accept any consequences outlined in the Student Code of Conduct.

“Students who violate federal, state or local laws are subject to disciplinary actions based on existing university policies and procedures,” DiMaria said. “If an international student is charged with a crime, then it is important for the student to find an attorney qualified in both criminal and immigration law.”

DiMaria said the Office of International Affairs strongly recommends that any non-English speaking student hire a professional interpreter. Crimi said in the event a student does not hire an interpreter, the court would provide one.

Crimi said the court system does not treat international students much differently from regular citizens.

“If they’re being prosecuted in our court system, they have the same gamut of rights as any other citizen,” Crimi said. “We have to provide anybody that our courts prosecute due process of law, and those rights have been very much specified over the years through statutes and courts.”

Crimi said non-citizens are given certain rights not available to U.S. citizens regarding the legal help they receive. A Supreme Court case, Padilla v. Commonwealth of Kentucky, sets the guidelines for these rights.

“All criminal defense attorneys have really had to pay attention to this case because it essentially said any non-citizen who is before one of our courts, potentially being convicted of a crime, it is the defense attorney’s duty to counsel them very specifically,” Crimi said. “Not just generally tell them this might have an impact on your immigration status, but to counsel them specifically about the potential impact it may have. That has been a concern of criminal defense attorneys throughout the country.”

Crimi said there are certain limitations to what Student Legal Services can provide.

“Even before that case came out, it’s always been my practice that where a student is facing criminal conviction that we do not do immigration law here,” Crimi said. “I recommend to the student that they go for a consultation with an immigration attorney for advice as to what effect a case might have on their immigration status.”

Crimi said she’s learned to advise international students to make an application to get the record sealed. However, the student needs to be careful because the Department of Homeland Security doesn’t want to see those records sealed. She said the department can step in and make it harder for defense attorneys to seal the records compared to a United States citizen.

Crimi said certain convictions of crimes, defined as crimes of moral turpitude, are deportable. Although, she said, SLS has never seen a case where a student was deported.

“We have represented students in cases that could lead to deportation if the student had been convicted of the offense charged,” Crimi said. “We have always been able to assist the student in avoiding convictions of those offenses.”

Joe Zucker is a public affairs reporter.

Contact Joe Zucker at [email protected].