Matter of Pinzon: Making False Statements Under 18 USC § 1001(a)(2) Is A Crime Involving Moral Turpitude

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The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) recently held in Matter of Pinzon, 26 I&N Dec. 189 (BIA 2013), that convictions under 18 USC § 1001(a)(2) for “knowingly and willfully making any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation” are Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude (CIMT).  The holding overturns two other BIA cases, Matter of G-, 8 I&N Dec. 315, 316 (BIA 1959), and  Matter of Espinosa, 10 I&N Dec. 98, 99 (BIA 1962), which both held that convictions under this statute were not CIMTs. 

In Matter of G- and Matter of Espinosa the BIA held that a conviction under section 1001 was not a CIMT because the statute, at the time, did not include the element of “materiality.” A false or fraudulent representation had to be material in order to be a CIMT.  In 1996, however, the False Statements Accountability Act of 1996, Pub. L. No. 104-292, 110 Stat. 3459, amended section 1001 to include materiality.  Thus, the BIA held in Pinzon that the statute now required materiality, and thus a conviction under that section is always a CIMT.  

What crimes are and are not CIMTs is not always an easy question to answer, but the answer is important.  Commission of a CIMT can render a foreign national ineligible for many immigration benefits such as relief in removal proceedings or even U.S. citizenship.  Additionally, a crime may seem relatively minor on its face, but if found to be a CIMT, it can have major implications for immigrants.   For example, a false statement may not rise to the level of fraud, but if convicted under 18 USC § 1001(a)(2) for such a statement, one would be convicted of a CIMT as the respondent was in Pinzon.