Justin Bieber: Would US actually deport pop prince?

There's a request to deport Justin Bieber on the White House 'We the People' online petition site, and it’s got almost 200,000 signatures.

Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press/AP
Canadian musician Justin Bieber is swarmed by media and police officers as he turns himself into city police for an expected assault charge, in Toronto, on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014. A police official said the charge has to do with an alleged assault on a limo driver in December.

Can the US government deport Justin Bieber? We’re pretty sure that is not an agenda item for the next National Security Council Deputies Committee meeting. But there’s a request to deport the Canadian pop prince on the White House “We the People” online petition site, and it’s got almost 200,000 signatures. When an appeal gets that much support, the administration is supposed to officially respond.

What that response will be, we don’t yet know. The world holds its breath, apparently.

First, for all you Beliebers out there, don’t be too worried. The “We the People” site is not some sort of citizen vigilante Supreme Court. It’s a PR thing by the White House to make people feel they have an influence, however small, on the course of our great nation. Mr. Bieber will not be deported just because hundreds of thousands of Americans wish it. He’ll be deported because his music is terrible.

Ha, ha, just kidding kids! Can I have my Twitter feed back now?

Anyway, the White House (may) respond to this petition when it gets around to it. But that “response” may be just some sort of generic statement that it's heard the will of the people, or that this raises some serious issues, or that we should all calm down and listen to some Nickelback. It doesn’t have to involve action at all.

Second, as things stand now, there’s no way Bieber gets booted out of the country. He’s here on a valid visa, and last we looked, he has been convicted of no crime. Sure, he was arrested in Miami on suspicion of drunken driving, resisting arrest, and other bad stuff. He could face vandalism charges for that egg-throwing incident back in the L.A. area, where a neighbor claims Bieber-launched yolks caused extensive damage to his house.

But Bieber hasn’t gone to trial, and good lawyers ought to be able to plea-bargain and otherwise maneuver their client’s way through this thicket.

“We will see how Bieber’s legal proceedings play out. Criminal convictions would seem necessary to ever deport him, especially given his ability to secure immigration counsel,” writes Kevin Johnson, dean of the University of California at Davis School of Law, at the “ImmigrationProf Blog.”

Third – and here’s the “but” moment – Bieber may be safe for now, but he can see deportation from where he’s standing. In fact, advocates for immigration reform are pointing to Bieber’s case as a moment to try to teach Americans about what the advocates say are the excesses and arbitrary nature of the deportation system.

If Bieber were poor or Hispanic, it is much more likely that his actions would result in a one-way ticket to his homeland, they say.

“[W]e are watching with interest to see issues Bieber’s situation will shine on the United States’ dysfunctional immigration enforcement system, which doesn’t offer due process to those caught up in its web,” writes Diana Scholl of the American Civil Liberties Union in a post on the case.

Bieber is a legal resident. He is in the US on an “O-1” visa, which is given to people in science, business, athletics, education, and the arts who exhibit “extraordinary ability.”

Sometimes the best jokes write themselves.

Long story short, an O-1 visa holder generally has to be convicted of an aggravated felony or crimes of “moral turpitude” to be deported under US law. But that’s not quite as difficult as it sounds. Some misdemeanors can be defined as “aggravated felonies” for the purposes of deportation, according to immigration lawyers. The American Immigration Council points to the case of Kellyann Jeanette Charles, a native of Trinidad and Tobago and green-card holder who is facing deportation on a shoplifting conviction that has been classified an aggravated felony.

“[F]or immigrants ... 'aggravated felony' covers more than thirty offenses, including simple battery, theft, filing a false tax return, and failing to appear in court,” writes Matthew Kolodziej, a legislative fellow at the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Drug crimes can also lead to deportation – and Bieber allegedly has copped to having smoked marijuana and popped some pills prior to his Miami arrest, though he hasn’t been charged with drug-related offenses in either Florida or California.

Again, Bieber’s been charged with nothing so far that a good lawyer probably can’t handle. (But he’s also fortunate to be able to afford lawyers. Unlike in criminal court, in immigration court defendants are not guaranteed right to counsel, according to the ACLU.) Unless his notorious activities escalate, Bieber should remain a US resident.

But a few more blowups, and Bieber may be saying, “Hello, Toronto.” Where he faces separate legal charges for allegedly assaulting a limousine driver, by the way.

“Of course, one could face worse fates than being deported to Canada. But, depending how all this plays out, Bieber could face a bar on returning to the U.S. for a long time after deportation – long enough to lose those baby cheeks,” writes Ilona Bray, an immigration lawyer and author of “Becoming a U.S. Citizen.”

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