A crime involving moral turpitude (CIMT) refers to an act that is intrinsically wrong and morally reprehensible.
Many immigration offenses are included within the category of Crime Involving Moral Turpitude, or crimes involving moral indecency. The U.S. immigration law makes ineligible to enter the United States, obtain a Visa or a Green Card, for any alien who has been convicted of a CIMT or who admits committing acts that constitute the essential elements of a CIMT, with few exceptions.
The CIMT is one of the oldest ground of “removal” from the United States. It appeared in the American immigration law for the first time in 1891, condemning to expulsion all those individuals found guilty of a crime involving moral turpitude. Although it was contemplated in the American law more than 100 years ago, there is really no criminal immigration law that specifically and exhaustively defines a CIMT. While the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) ruled that a CIMT involves intentional actions that are per se vile or implies fraud or deception, various federal courts have adopted different interpretations of these conditions.
The crimes involving moral turpitude are generally divided into three main categories:
- Crimes against property (blackmail, arson, robbery, burglary, receipt of stolen property);
- Crimes committed against governmental authority (tax evasion, corruption, fraud against the government);
- Crimes committed against individuals, family and sexual morality (statutory rape, murder, second or third degree assault, disorderly conduct, child abuse or pornography).
Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), one or more convictions to one of the above categories of crimes renders a person ineligible to enter the U.S. and obtain a temporary visa or Green Card. If the immigrant is already in the United States, the acquisition of a Green Card or citizenship through the naturalization process can be denied. Also, the immigrant be placed in deportation proceedings by the Department of Homeland Security.
In addition, aiding the commission of a CIMT is also considered a CIMT, and is punished and penalized to the same extent.
The law on crimes of moral turpitude is constantly evolving and changing and just a good immigration lawyer that is familiar with the local criminal laws as well as with the immigration code is able to provide a comprehensive analysis of the case.