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Click for more articlesNEWS FROM THE COURTS

Beltran-Tirado v. INS, Ninth Circuit

In this case, the court found that the Board of Immigration Appeals had improperly concluded that Beltran was ineligible for the registry, and remanded the case for further proceedings. 

Beltran has lived in the US since 1968.  In 1972 she found a Social Security card on a bus and began using it to work, to purchase a home, to obtain a driverís license and many other legal activities.  In 1988 the person whose card it was called Beltran and told her to stop.  Beltranís use of the card did not stop, and in 1991 she was arrested and convicted for using the card to make a false attestation on an employment eligibility verification form and for making false representations concerning a Social Security number.  She was sentenced to 90 days in jail and five years probation.

The INS then sought to deport her.  She applied for three forms of relief Ė registry, suspension of deportation, and voluntary departure.  Each request was denied by an Immigration Judge, and affirmed by the BIA.  Beltran sought review of each of these decisions by the Ninth Circuit.  Because of the 1996 changes to immigration law, only the registry claim could be heard by the federal court.

The registry is a provision of law that provides a route to permanent residency for long-term undocumented residents.  To be eligible, a person must have continually resided in the US since 1972, be of good moral character, and not be ineligible to citizenship.  The BIA found that while Beltran met the residency requirement, and was not barred from one day becoming a citizen, her convictions for offenses it considered to be crimes of moral turpitude prevented her from demonstrating good moral character.

There is no statute that makes clear whether these offenses were crimes of moral turpitude.  However, in 1990 Congress amended one of the laws under which Beltran was convicted to state that permanent residents who gained that status through amnesty or the registry who had used fraudulent Social Security numbers were exempted from prosecution.  In the report that went with this law, Congress stressed that such people should not be considered to have committed crimes of moral turpitude. 

While not directly on point, the law does indicate that Congress did not consider offenses such as Beltranís to be crimes of moral turpitude.  The Ninth Circuit further supported its result by noting that Beltranís offense was not inherently bad or immoral, as is generally required for a crime to be considered one of moral turpitude. 

Because the INS based its result on the finding that Beltran was statutorily ineligible for the registry, a finding the Ninth Circuit reversed, the case was remanded for further proceedings.

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