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MOHAMED v. HOLDER, NO. 13-2027

Decided: October 17, 2014

The Fourth Circuit held that failure to register as a sex offender is not a crime of moral turpitude, and, therefore, the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) erred in relying on that conviction to initiate the petitioner’s removal. The Court reversed and remanded with instructions to vacate the petitioner’s order of removal.

The petitioner, Khalid Mohamed, born in Sudan and a lawful permanent resident of the United States as of 2003, pleaded guilty to sexual battery in Virginia in 2010. After he was convicted of failing to register as a sex offender in 2011, the Department of Homeland Security sought his removal under 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(2)(A)(ii), which deems an alien deportable after two convictions for crimes of moral turpitude. The petitioner sought cancellation of removal, claiming that failure to register as a sex offender was not a crime of moral turpitude; the immigration judge however denied his application. The BIA then denied the petitioner’s cancellation application and ordered his removal.

In determining that failure to register as a sex offender is not a crime of moral turpitude, the Court defined a crime of moral turpitude as one that “must involve conduct that not only violates a statute but also independently violates a moral norm.” The Court rejected the Government’s argument that because the purpose of the sex offender registration statute is to reduce the number of sex offenders that commit additional offenses, failure to register violates a moral norm. Instead, the Court concluded that the registration requirement is regulatory in nature and failure to register does not implicate any moral values. Accordingly, the Court held that the BIA erred in using the failure-to-register conviction as a basis for deportation pursuant to the federal alien deportation statute.

Full Opinion

Amanda K. Reasoner