Under U.S. immigration law, non-citizens are subject to deportation following certain criminal convictions. One deportation category is for “crimes involving moral turpitude,” or CIMTs. This category usually refers to crimes that involve fraud or actions seen as particularly depraved. For example, tax evasion and spousal abuse are CIMTs, but simple assault generally is not. For a crime to qualify as a CIMT, it must include depraved conduct and some level of intent.
The CIMT framework has been criticized for a variety of reasons. Not only is it defined ambiguously with outdated language, but the moral values it enshrines can sometimes seem antiquated. The framework also leads to inconsistent results. This is partly because courts make CIMT determinations using the categorical approach, which is as confusing as it is controversial. In addition, the standard may allow for arbitrary and potentially discriminatory decisions by immigration adjudicators.
This Note evaluates a CIMT determination that the Eighth Circuit recently upheld. There, the court agreed that failure to register as a sex offender involves moral turpitude. This Note argues that the Eighth Circuit applied the categorical approach incorrectly and relied on an outdated case that should be overturned. A violation of Minnesota’s sex offender registration law lacks the requisite depravity and intent to be a CIMT. Further, this Note contends that the moral turpitude standard creates too many problems and should be abandoned in immigration law.