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Nikolai Khabibulin's DUI Conviction & The Effect On His Immigrant Status

"It occurred to me that anyway one more Sunday was over, that Maman was buried now, that I was going back to work, and that, really, nothing had changed."

--Albert Camus, The Stranger.

While many in Edmonton thought that Camus' words were fitting for Nikolai Khabibulin's trial, we dug a bit deeper and found that not to be the case.  Now that Khabibulin has been convicted and awaits sentencing tomorrow, we've decided to dig deeper again and find what awaits Khabibulin after Tuesday.

I spoke with two Maricopa-based attorneys specializing in immigration law, but neither were interested in going on the record.  Both pointed to the recent immigration law passed in Arizona, the controversy surrounding it, and the media attention around the law as reasons that they wouldn't want to see undue attention focused on their clients or cases.  After hearing some of their answers as to the details and circumstances around the Visa status, I now understand why.

Both attorneys held the same viewpoint - although it is unlikely that Khabibulin will be deported and subsequently denied re-entry into the United States, the possibility does exist.  Khabibulin's conviction record, along with his Visa record, fingerprints, photographs, and driver's license information will almost certainly be submitted to Immigration Services and the Department of Homeland Security by the Maricopa Country District Attorney.  Every time Khabibulin enters the country, he will be subject to additional scrutiny and at any time in the future, the USICS or DHS may choose to deny him permission to enter the country based on the DUI conviction.  Because there is no standing policy, these decisions essentially become a judgment call by an administrative supervisor.

The conviction will also impact any future Visa renewal process, as the administrator in charge of issuing or renewing the Visa will consider the conviction and may, at his/her discretion, choose not to renew Khabibulin's Visa.   Again, this is all very unlikely, but the possibility exists.  Both attorneys indicated to me that, in their opinion, deportation and refusal to admit would be much, much more likely if Khabibulin were of Mexican, or general Latin American descent, especially in Arizona.  They don't believe that this would happen to an immigrant of European background without a felony conviction.

If Khabibulin were to have his Visa revoked, or if he were to be denied entrance to the U.S., he would have to file for a 601 Waiver and have a hearing with Immigration Services.  If the hearing officer determines that the petitioner is in good standing, they may overrule the prior decision to deny Khabibulin's status.  The hearing officer may rule that Khabibulin is in good standing for the duration of the existing Visa, or he may rule that the waiver is only valid for a specific time period and Khabibulin would go before yet another officer when the waiver expires.

I also asked about the probation that Khabibulin will likely receive as part of his sentence tomorrow.  The judge, at his discretion, will sentence Khabibulin to probation lasting from one to five years.  The judge will then lay out the terms of the probation.  It is likely that Khabibulin's legal team will attempt to enter their client into an alcohol treatment program and receive a suspended sentence for twenty of his mandatory thirty-day sentence.  In doing so, Khabibulin will be required to undergo psychological screening and random alcohol testing.  If he is admitted into the program, he will serve ten days in Tent City and then enter the program as well as probation at the same time.  He will likely attend private alcohol counseling as well as group alcohol instruction.  He will likely be prevented from consuming alcohol while on probation and will have to report to his probation officer once every thirty days.  He may also be subject to random alcohol screening as determined by his probation officer, and would then need to receive permission to leave the state each time he travels, permission that would be granted by the probation officer of record, though according to both attorneys, this is much more likely for a person of Latin American descent, not someone of European descent.

If Khabibulin is found to have violated any of the terms of his probation for the duration assigned by the judge, his probation will be revoked and he will be jailed for the twenty days that were suspended, and it is extremely likely that his Visa would be revoked immediately.  If Khabibulin completes the terms of his probation, at the end of the duration of the probation, he will petition the court to have his probation lifted.

Nikolai Khabibulin's future is about to get much more complicated, and attention to detail is going to be key to his eligibility to continue playing NHL hockey.  Even if he avoids thirty days in jail and only serves ten, even if he avoids having his Visa revoked, the terms of his probation have a direct impact on his immigration status and his ability to play in the NHL.  In The Stranger, Meursault's life didn't change with the news of Maman's death, but Khabibulin's life will likely change, or at the very least, be greatly inconvenienced by this ruling.  That he was arrested and convicted in Maricopa County did him no favors in punishment; that he's now on the radar of the bureaucratic leviathan of both USICS and DHS will do him no favors in travel, immigration status and hassle for the next three years.