A Japanese couple who legally immigrated to the U.S. in 1984 and established permanent residency is being threatened with deportation because of falsified taxes in 1991. The couple owns multiple sushi restaurants in the Los Angeles, California area and admitted to the tax crime over 20 years ago, paying nearly $250,000 in penalties to the IRS. The husband also served jail time for the offense.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service – now known as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement – chose to deport the couple because the crime was an “aggravated felony.” The case reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which last month upheld ICE’s decision that the criminal conviction was indeed an “aggravated felony” and that the organization was within its means in seeking deportation.
If an immigrant is convicted of an aggravated felony, they can be deported. However, the law was mostly used in cases of violent crimes or drug trafficking. Recently, the law’s application has expanded, and could threaten the livelihood of legal immigrants.
With this ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court has established a precedent that legal immigrants involved with tax crimes could face deportation. One of its own justices, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, criticized the ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court, calling it “implausible” to deem the fraudulent tax filing “sufficiently serious to warrant the drastic measure of deportation.”
Her critique holds water, as lower courts across the country have previously ruled that tax crimes are not aggravated felonies. One important note about the Supreme Court’s ultimate ruling does not apply to civil claims that force a tax crime offender to repay back taxes – only criminal tax charges that result in conviction.
Source: Los Angeles Times, “Legal immigrants face deportation for filing false tax return,” David Savage and Catherine Saillant, Feb. 26, 2012