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.