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Long Awaited Decision Ameliorates Some of the Sting from Acts Considered “Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude”

The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), the appellate-level administrative court for immigration matters, issued its long-awaited decision in Matter of Silva-Trevino III, re-establishing a uniform standard of analysis when determining if a crime is considered a “crime involving moral turpitude” (CIMT) for inadmissibility purposes. Under the immigration laws, a foreign national who was convicted of a crime that is considered a CIMT can be barred from entry and other immigration benefits, including permanent residence; even green card holders convicted of a CIMT can be deported. The original case, Matter of Silva-Trevino I, had created in 2008 a controversial form of analysis that allowed the courts to look outside the record of conviction, including police reports, which can include hearsay and other nonrelevant statements. The earlier case was a significant deviation from the generally accepted approaches that Silva-Trevino III now re-establishes, called the “categorical approach,” i.e., reviewing the statute of conviction, and the “modified categorical approach,” reviewing the record of conviction. Overall, this is a useful decision for practitioners and their foreign-national clients, and should help impart consistency in courts across the country as well as ensure that only relevant evidence is considered by the courts in determining whether a crime is a CIMT.