15 Geo. Immigr. L.J. 259 (2000-2001)
Redefining Crimes of Moral Turpitude: A Proposal to Congress

handle is hein.journals/geoimlj15 and id is 269 raw text is: REDEFINING CRIMES OF MORAL
TURPITUDE: A PROPOSAL TO CONGRESS
BRIAN C. HARMS*
But we do not here question the power of Congress to define deportable
conduct. We only question the power of administrative officers and
courts to decree deportation until Congress has given an intelligible
definition of deportable conduct.'
INTRODUCTION
In 1929, it happened to an alien convicted of petit larceny, a misde-
meanor.2 In 195 1, it happened to an alien twice convicted and sentenced for
the crime of conspiracy to defraud the United States of taxes on distilled
spirits.3 In 1972, it happened to an alien convicted of consensual sodomy.4
Most recently, in 1999, it happened to an alien twice convicted of driving
under the influence.5 What happened? The Immigration and Naturalization
Service (INS) deported each of these aliens for convictions of crimes
involving moral turpitude.
For more than a century, the INS has deported tens of thousands of aliens
on the grounds that an alien was convicted of a crime involving moral
turpitude.,6 The INS has done this without any statutory definition of what
constitutes a crime involving moral turpitude. Congress left the power to
define crimes involving moral turpitude to the judicial system. The courts
have developed broad principles to define crimes involving moral turpi-
tude and have categorized specific types of crimes as necessarily involving
moral turpitude. No court has been able to define with clarity what crimes
* B.A., Denison University; J.D., Cornell Law School. I would like to thank my wife, Kristen, for
her love and support. I would also like to thank Professor Stephen Yale-Loehr for being a guiding
influence and advocate for the publication of this article.
1. Jordan v. DeGeorge, 341 U.S. 223, 245 (1951) (Jackson, J., dissenting) (questioning the
constitutional vagueness of crimes involving moral turpitude).
2. See Tillinghast v. Edmead, 31 F.2d 81 (1st Cir. 1929).
3. See Jordan, 341 U.S. at 223.
4. See Velez-Lozano v. INS, 463 F.2d 1305 (D.C. Cir. 1972).
5. See In re Orosco-Barraza, No. A92-440-578 (B.I.A. Sept. 30, 1999) (unpublished decision on
file with the Georgetown Immigration Law Journal).
6. The immigration laws have contained the language crimes involving moral turpitude since
1891. See discussion infra Part I.B; U.S. DEP'T OF JUSTICE, IMMIGRATION, AND NATURALIZATION
SERVICE, 1994 STATISTICAL YEARBOOK OF THE IMMIGRATION AND NATURALIZATION SERVICE 166
(1996) (Table 66 reports that from 1908 to 1980 the INS deported 48,330 aliens for criminal
violations and 16,582 aliens for immoral behavior; Table 67 reports that from 1981 to 1994 the INS
deported 123,510 aliens for criminal or narcotics convictions) [hereinafter INS STATISTICAL YEAR-
BOOK].

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