by Claire Lisker*

A con­vic­tion for a “crime involv­ing moral turpi­tude” ren­ders an undoc­u­ment­ed immi­grant inel­i­gi­ble for can­cel­la­tion of removal, a dis­cre­tionary form of relief that the Attor­ney Gen­er­al may grant to indi­vid­u­als who have remained in the Unit­ed States for ten or more years. This Con­tri­bu­tion argues that fal­si­fy­ing a Social Secu­ri­ty num­ber, as crim­i­nal­ized under 42 U.S.C. § 408(a)(7)(B), is not a crime involv­ing moral turpitude.

Undoc­u­ment­ed immi­grants at risk of depor­ta­tion may have a nar­row but gold­en life­line: the oppor­tu­ni­ty for can­cel­la­tion of removal. Under 8 U.S.C. § 1229b(b)(1), the Attor­ney Gen­er­al has dis­cre­tion to can­cel removal where the indi­vid­ual (i) has been con­tin­u­ous­ly present in the Unit­ed States for at least ten years, (ii) has demon­strat­ed “good moral char­ac­ter” dur­ing that peri­od, (iii) has not been con­vict­ed of cer­tain enu­mer­at­ed offens­es, and (iv) estab­lish­es their “removal would result in excep­tion­al and extreme­ly unusu­al hard­ship to the alien’s spouse, par­ent, or child, who is a cit­i­zen of the Unit­ed States or an alien law­ful­ly admit­ted for per­ma­nent res­i­dence.”1 One fails the “good moral char­ac­ter” require­ment if they have com­mit­ted a “crime involv­ing moral turpi­tude” (“CIMT”), there­by becom­ing inel­i­gi­ble for can­cel­la­tion of removal.2

Because the statute does not define “CIMT,” “courts have labored for gen­er­a­tions to pro­vide a work­able def­i­n­i­tion” of “moral turpi­tude.”3 The con­sen­sus has long been that “moral turpi­tude” refers to “con­duct that shocks the pub­lic con­science as being inher­ent­ly base, vile, or depraved.”4 Courts also agree that “to involve moral turpi­tude, a crime requires two essen­tial ele­ments: rep­re­hen­si­ble con­duct and a cul­pa­ble men­tal state,”5 with the lat­ter require­ment, a “cor­rupt sci­en­ter,” as a CIMT’s “touch­stone.”6 To deter­mine whether a crim­i­nal act con­sti­tutes a CIMT, courts apply the cat­e­gor­i­cal approach: they exam­ine the ele­ments of the statute crim­i­nal­iz­ing the act rather than the spe­cif­ic facts under­ly­ing any individual’s con­vic­tion.7 So long as the “min­i­mum con­duct”8 or “least cul­pa­ble con­duct”9 pun­ish­able by the statute still falls with­in the CIMT def­i­n­i­tion, the offense is cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly a CIMT. Put dif­fer­ent­ly, under what has been termed the “min­i­mum-con­duct test,”10 if the statute could be vio­lat­ed in a way that is not moral­ly turpi­tudi­nous, the CIMT label can­not apply.

Despite these guid­ing met­rics, courts stand divid­ed on whether cer­tain crimes are moral­ly turpi­tudi­nous. One such crime is that of fal­si­fi­ca­tion of a Social Secu­ri­ty num­ber under 42 U.S.C. § 408(a)(7)(B).11 The statute impos­es a felony con­vic­tion with a max­i­mum sen­tence of five years12 on

who­ev­er . . . for any . . . pur­pose . . . with intent to deceive, false­ly rep­re­sents a num­ber to be the Social Secu­ri­ty account num­ber assigned by the Com­mis­sion­er of Social Secu­ri­ty to him or to anoth­er per­son, when in fact such num­ber is not the Social Secu­ri­ty account num­ber assigned by the Com­mis­sion­er of Social Secu­ri­ty to him or to such oth­er per­son.13

Courts that deem 42 U.S.C. § 408(a)(7)(B) vio­la­tions to be moral­ly turpi­tudi­nous “t[ake] it as giv­en that a crime involv­ing ‘fraud as an ingre­di­ent’ qual­i­fies as a [CIMT],” harken­ing back to the 1951 Supreme Court case Jor­dan v. De George.14 When apply­ing the min­i­mum-con­duct test to that the­o­ry, one must ask, “could some­one com­mit [the] crime of con­vic­tion with­out fraud?”15 If the answer is “yes,” as this Con­tri­bu­tion argues is the case for vio­la­tions of 42 U.S.C. § 408(a)(7)(B), the crime can­not be deemed a CIMT.

Notably, some cir­cuits have wavered on their pri­or CIMT clas­si­fi­ca­tions for vio­la­tions of the statute, acknowl­edg­ing the inad­e­qua­cy of a cat­e­gor­i­cal CIMT label for Social Secu­ri­ty num­ber fal­si­fi­ca­tion.16 Yet, a sharp cir­cuit split remains, pro­duc­ing dras­ti­cal­ly incon­sis­tent results: in some areas, a light crim­i­nal sen­tence is fol­lowed by the most extreme immi­gra­tion con­se­quence, where­as in oth­ers, the immi­grant has a chance to con­tin­ue the life they built with their fam­i­ly in the Unit­ed States.17

This Con­tri­bu­tion argues that courts should deem vio­la­tions of 42 U.S.C. § 408(a)(7)(B) to not be moral­ly turpi­tudi­nous. Such a deter­mi­na­tion aligns with the statute’s lan­guage, the def­i­n­i­tions of fraud, and the pur­pose of CIMT categorizations.


First, 42 U.S.C. § 408(a)(7)(B) fails the min­i­mum-con­duct test because fraud is not one of its statu­to­ry ele­ments. The statute “does not include fraud as an ele­ment or ingre­di­ent,”18 as it only requires an “intent to deceive,” and deceit is not syn­ony­mous with fraud. In writ­ing statutes, Con­gress has explic­it­ly treat­ed these two terms as dis­tinct.19 Were the crime of fal­si­fy­ing a Social Secu­ri­ty num­ber to require fraud—either exclu­sive­ly or as an alter­na­tive to deceit—the statute would not have men­tioned deceit alone. Indeed, courts have delin­eat­ed that, to qual­i­fy as CIMTs, crimes “require more” than “dis­hon­est and deceit­ful behav­ior,” such that “deceit must be paired with an intent to wrong­ful­ly extract some ben­e­fit or to cause a detri­ment.”20 By not requir­ing an intent to defraud, this crime can nec­es­sar­i­ly be com­mit­ted with­out being “inher­ent­ly base, vile, or depraved.”21 Fur­ther­more, Black’s Law Dic­tio­nary defines fraud as “a know­ing mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion or know­ing con­ceal­ment of a mate­r­i­al fact made to induce anoth­er to act to his or her detri­ment,”22 and the U.S. Depart­ment of State’s For­eign Affairs Man­u­al adds that fraud gen­er­al­ly involves not only “mak­ing false representation[s]” and “an intent to defraud,” but also “reliance on the false rep­re­sen­ta­tion by the per­son defraud­ed.”23 Clear­ly, decep­tion must be cou­pled with fur­ther ill intention—not required by 42 U.S.C. § 408(a)(7)(B)—to man­i­fest fraud.

Of note, § 408(a)(7)(B) crim­i­nal­izes fal­si­fy­ing a Social Secu­ri­ty num­ber “for any … pur­pose,” not only for “obtain­ing … [a] ben­e­fit to which [they] are not enti­tled” or “obtain­ing any­thing of val­ue from any per­son.”24 There­fore, even if cer­tain vio­la­tions were to implic­it­ly involve fraud, the statute can be vio­lat­ed with­out fraud. For exam­ple, one may need a Social Secu­ri­ty num­ber to access cer­tain health ser­vices, and thus be moved to pro­vide a false Social Secu­ri­ty num­ber to receive care.25 One may also fal­si­fy a Social Secu­ri­ty num­ber “by using a fic­ti­tious person’s name—say, Mick­ey Mouse—and a non-exis­tent Social Secu­ri­ty num­ber sole­ly for the pur­pose of get­ting a job, and not with the intent to cause loss to any­one”26 nor to extract an unearned ben­e­fit.27 Nor should the CIMT assess­ment dif­fer if the Social Secu­ri­ty num­ber hap­pens to belong to a real per­son, as this would sub­ject the immigrant’s fate to chance,28 and CIMTs cru­cial­ly pun­ish a “cor­rupt sci­en­ter.”29 When one fal­si­fies a Social Secu­ri­ty num­ber to obtain employ­ment, the employ­er is not nec­es­sar­i­ly fooled in the first place,30 let alone deprived of any­thing.31 While the action is ille­gal, it does not rise to the lev­el of being “accom­pa­nied by a vicious motive.”32 By being vio­lable with­out fraud, there­fore, 42 U.S.C. § 408(a)(7)(B) fails the min­i­mum-con­duct test.

Sec­ond, even accept­ing arguen­do that all con­duct pun­ish­able by § 408(a)(7)(B) involves fraud, not all fraud is moral­ly turpi­tudi­nous. In Husky Inter­na­tion­al Elec­tron­ics, Inc. v. Ritz, the Supreme Court spec­i­fied that in com­mon law, “actu­al fraud” is that com­mit­ted with “wrong­ful intent,” where­as “implied fraud” or fraud “in law” describes “acts of decep­tion that ‘may exist with­out the impu­ta­tion of bad faith or immoral­i­ty.’”33 By def­i­n­i­tion, there­fore, some types of fraud are not moral­ly turpi­tudi­nous. At a min­i­mum, the statute should require actu­al fraud or an intent to defraud in order for its vio­la­tions to be des­ig­nat­ed CIMTs under De George’s “fraud as an ingre­di­ent” theory.

Nonethe­less, declar­ing vio­la­tions of § 408(a)(7)(B) to be CIMTs based on De George’s the­o­ry improp­er­ly expands De George’s reach in the first place.34 In his major­i­ty opin­ion in De George, Jus­tice Vin­son explic­it­ly lim­it­ed the Court’s hold­ing, writ­ing, “our inquiry in this case is nar­rowed to deter­min­ing whether this par­tic­u­lar offense involves moral turpi­tude. Whether or not cer­tain oth­er offens­es involve moral turpi­tude is irrel­e­vant and beside the point.”35 De George con­sid­ered the crime of “con­spir­a­cy to defraud the Unit­ed States of tax­es on dis­tilled spir­its.”36 To impute its hold­ing onto 42 U.S.C. § 408(a)(7)(B)—a statute that does not men­tion fraud and that immi­grants often vio­late in order to work and pay tax­es37—ignores De George’s bounds and fac­tu­al context.

Last­ly, deem­ing vio­la­tions of 42 U.S.C. § 408(a)(7)(B) to be CIMTs con­tra­venes the main func­tion of CIMT cat­e­go­riza­tion: to pre­vent can­cel­la­tion of removal for those indi­vid­u­als who have com­mit­ted such rep­re­hen­si­ble and evil crimes,38 that even with ten or more years of con­tin­u­ous pres­ence and fam­i­ly mem­bers to sup­port, their expul­sion from the Unit­ed States should be vir­tu­al­ly guar­an­teed.39 On the con­trary, undoc­u­ment­ed immigrants—those who lack work autho­riza­tion and often have to pro­duce Social Secu­ri­ty num­bers to pro­cure employment—contribute about nine bil­lion dol­lars in pay­roll tax­es annu­al­ly,40 a prac­tice which the gov­ern­ment facil­i­tates.41 These tax con­tri­bu­tions fund gov­ern­ment pro­grams like Medicare, from which undoc­u­ment­ed immi­grants can­not ben­e­fit, and, as the Chief Actu­ary of the Social Secu­ri­ty Admin­is­tra­tion described in 2013, they gen­er­ate “a net pos­i­tive effect on Social Secu­ri­ty finan­cial sta­tus gen­er­al­ly.”42 Sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly deport­ing these immigrants—if they are caught fal­si­fy­ing a Social Secu­ri­ty num­ber and con­vict­ed in the wrong circuit—not only harms the econ­o­my,43 but per­verse­ly impos­es the harsh­est con­se­quences on those attempt­ing to con­tribute to their com­mu­ni­ties.44 These are not indi­vid­u­als behav­ing with the “evil or mali­cious intent” that the Board of Immi­gra­tion Appeals has called the “essence of moral turpi­tude.”45

Clas­si­fy­ing crimes such as fal­si­fi­ca­tion of a Social Secu­ri­ty num­ber under 42 U.S.C. § 408(a)(7)(B)—which requires an “intent to deceive” but can be vio­lat­ed with­out an intent to defraud—as CIMTs chal­lenges the very pow­er of the CIMT cat­e­go­riza­tion itself. As the Ninth Cir­cuit observed in Navar­ro-Lopez v. Gon­za­les,

[a]s the major­i­ty of crimes involve some ele­ment of dishonesty—from Enron exec­u­tives oper­at­ing mas­sive fraud on the pub­lic to a twen­ty-year-old using his old­er brother’s ID to buy a beer—classifying all such crimes as involv­ing moral turpi­tude would rob the phrase “moral turpi­tude” of any dis­tinct mean­ing.46

Courts should be wary of send­ing immi­gra­tion doc­trine down such a slip­pery slope. The dis­tinc­tions between actu­al fraud and implied fraud, and between fraud and dis­hon­esty, must remain clear nation­wide to safe­guard the nar­row pur­pose of CIMT des­ig­na­tion.47

In accor­dance with the lan­guage of the statute, con­cep­tions of fraud, and the func­tion of CIMT des­ig­na­tion, courts should uni­form­ly and unequiv­o­cal­ly hold that fal­si­fy­ing a Social Secu­ri­ty num­ber under 42 U.S.C. § 408(a)(7)(B) is not cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly a crime involv­ing moral turpi­tude. Oth­er­wise, if the Supreme Court con­tin­ues to deny cer­tio­rari on the issue,48 it is Congress’s respon­si­bil­i­ty to issue statu­to­ry guid­ance on which crimes are moral­ly turpitudinous.

* Claire Lisker is a J.D. Can­di­date (2023) at New York Uni­ver­si­ty School of Law. This Con­tri­bu­tion is a com­men­tary on the prob­lem at the 2022 Asy­lum and Refugee Law Com­pe­ti­tion host­ed by U.C. Davis School of Law. The ques­tion pre­sent­ed was whether an individual’s con­vic­tion under 42 U.S.C. § 408(a)(7)(8) qual­i­fied as a crime involv­ing moral turpi­tude. This Con­tri­bu­tion argues against such a cat­e­go­riza­tion. The views expressed here­in do not nec­es­sar­i­ly reflect the views of the author.

1. Meet­ing these eli­gi­bil­i­ty require­ments, how­ev­er, does not guar­an­tee can­cel­la­tion of removal, as grant­i­ng the relief is up to the Attor­ney General’s dis­cre­tion, which is “lim­it­ed by Congress’s com­mand that no more than 4,000 removal orders may be can­celled each year.” Perei­da v. Wilkin­son, 141 S. Ct. 754, 762 (2021) (cit­ing 8 U.S.C. § 1229b(e)).

2. 8 U.S.C. §§ 1182(a)(2)(A)(i)(I), 1229b(b)(1)(C).

3. Rob Doer­sam, Pun­ish­ing Harm­less Con­duct: Toward a New Def­i­n­i­tion of “Moral Turpi­tude” in Immi­gra­tion Law, 79 Ohio St. L.J. 547, 551 (2018).

4. Mat­ter of Short, 20 I. & N. Dec. 136, 139 (BIA 1989); see also Med­i­na v. Unit­ed States, 259 F.3d 220, 227 (4th Cir. 2001); Nicanor-Romero v. Mukasey, 523 F.3d 992, 1006 (9th Cir. 2008).

5. Mat­ter of Wu, 27 I. & N. Dec. 8, 9 (BIA 2017) (quot­ing Mat­ter of Sil­va-Trevi­no, 26 I. & N. Dec. 826, 833 (BIA 2016)).

6. Michel v. I.N.S., 206 F.3d 253, 263 (2d Cir. 2000).

7. Mat­ter of Sil­va-Trevi­no, 26 I. & N. Dec. at 828; Gelin v. U.S. Attor­ney Gen­er­al, 837 F.3d 1236, 1241 (11th Cir. 2016); Grana­dos v. Gar­land, 17 F.4th 475, 481 (4th Cir. 2021).

8. Flo­res-Moli­na v. Ses­sions, 850 F.3d 1150, 1158 (10th Cir. 2017) (cit­ing Mon­crieffe, 569 U.S. at 189).

9. Gelin, 837 F.3d at 1241.

10. See, e.g., Ondu­so v. Ses­sions, 877 F.3d 1073, 1075 (8th Cir. 2017).

11. For cas­es that have cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly deemed all vio­la­tions of the statute to be CIMTs, see, for exam­ple, Hyder v. Keisler, 560 F.3d 388, 393 (5th Cir. 2007) (“[C]rimes involv­ing inten­tion­al decep­tion as an essen­tial ele­ment are gen­er­al­ly CIMTs.”); Marin-Rodriguez v. Hold­er, 710 F.3d 734, 738 (7th Cir. 2013) (“[C]rimes entail­ing an intent to deceive or defraud are unques­tion­ably moral­ly turpi­tudi­nous.”); Guarda­do-Gar­cia v. Hold­er, 613 F.3d 900, 902 (8th Cir. 2010) (“Intent to deceive for the pur­pose of wrong­ful­ly obtain­ing a ben­e­fit is an essen­tial ele­ment of § 408(a)(7)(B).”); and Ser­ra­to-Soto v. Hold­er, 570 F.3d 686, 692 (6th Cir. 2009) (“[W]e do not dis­turb estab­lished Sixth Cir­cuit prece­dent find­ing crimes of fraud or dis­hon­esty with­in the class of crimes involv­ing moral turpi­tude.”). For cas­es that have reached the oppo­site con­clu­sion, see, for exam­ple, Zarate v. U.S. Attor­ney Gen., 26 F.4th 1196, 1207 (11th Cir. 2022) (explain­ing that courts cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly deem­ing vio­la­tions of the statute to be CIMTs based on its “‘intent to deceive’ and dis­hon­esty ele­ments” failed to “rec­og­nize that fraud gen­er­al­ly requires act­ing to obtain a ben­e­fit or cause a detri­ment,” and the statute “does not have fraud as a nec­es­sary ele­ment or ingre­di­ent”); Bel­tran-Tira­do v. I.N.S., 213 F.3d 1179, 1184 (9th Cir. 2000) (hold­ing that, based on the statute’s leg­isla­tive his­to­ry, “use of a false Social Secu­ri­ty num­ber to fur­ther oth­er­wise legal behav­ior is not a crime of ‘moral turpi­tude’” in cer­tain situations).

12. 42 U.S.C. § 408(a). In cer­tain excep­tion­al sit­u­a­tions, the max­i­mum sen­tence is ten years. This applies to “a per­son who receives a fee or oth­er income for ser­vices per­formed in con­nec­tion with any deter­mi­na­tion with respect to ben­e­fits under this sub­chap­ter (includ­ing a claimant rep­re­sen­ta­tive, trans­la­tor, or cur­rent or for­mer employ­ee of the Social Secu­ri­ty Admin­is­tra­tion), or who is a physi­cian or oth­er health care provider who sub­mits, or caus­es the sub­mis­sion of, med­ical or oth­er evi­dence in con­nec­tion with any such deter­mi­na­tion.” Id.

13. 42 U.S.C. § 408(a)(7)(B).

14. Perei­da, 141 S. Ct. at 759–60 (quot­ing Jor­dan v. De George, 341 U.S. 223, 227 (1951)) (cleaned up); see also Zarate, 26 F.4th at 1202 (“[I]t seems to us that fraud may be a sui gener­is cat­e­go­ry nec­es­sar­i­ly involv­ing moral turpi­tude.”); Guarda­do-Gar­cia, 615 F.3d at 902 (find­ing a vio­la­tion of 42 U.S.C. § 408(a)(7)(B) to be a CIMT on the same basis).

15. Perei­da, 141 S. Ct. at 762.

16. See, e.g., Arias v. Lynch, 834 F.3d 823, 824 (“[W]e doubt that every vio­la­tion of the statute nec­es­sar­i­ly qual­i­fies as a crime involv­ing moral turpi­tude.”); Ahmed v. Hold­er, 324 F. App’x 82, 83 (2d Cir. 2009) (sum­ma­ry order) (“[W]e are not per­suad­ed that [the defendant’s] con­vic­tion under 42 U.S.C. § 408(a)(7)(B) is of a crime involv­ing moral turpitude.”).

17. See Nathaniel C. Crow­ley, Naked Dis­hon­esty: Mis­use of a Social Secu­ri­ty Num­ber for an Oth­er­wise Legal Pur­pose May Not Be a Crime Involv­ing Moral Turpi­tude After All, 15 San Diego Int’l L.J. 205, 210, 211 (2013) (explain­ing that undoc­u­ment­ed immi­grants “face[] a very great risk of removal once the moral turpi­tude label affix­es” and “[i]t is quite prob­lem­at­ic that in a noncitizen’s inter­ac­tion with the Unit­ed States as a for­eign­er, he would face a dif­fer­ent immi­gra­tion penal­ty for the same offense across dif­fer­ent juris­dic­tions and judges with­in the Unit­ed States”).

18. Zarate v. U.S. Attor­ney Gen., 26 F.4th 1196, 1202 (11th Cir. 2022).

19. See, e.g., 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(48)(M)(i) (defin­ing “aggra­vat­ed felony” as “an offense that … (i) involves fraud or deceit” in which the loss exceeds $10,000) (empha­sis added); 18 U.S.C. 670(a)(1) (pro­hibit­ing the “obtain[ing]” of cer­tain med­ical prod­ucts “by fraud or decep­tion”); 15 U.S.C. 77q(a) (reg­u­lat­ing the “[u]se of inter­state com­merce for pur­pose of fraud or deceit”); 7 U.S.C. 6b(e)(3) (mak­ing it unlaw­ful for those who sell cer­tain secu­ri­ties to engage in acts that “would oper­ate as a fraud or deceit upon any per­son”). The two terms are not syn­ony­mous because, under the “sur­plusage” canon of statu­to­ry inter­pre­ta­tion, “the court must give effect to every word,” such that each word in a statute adds mean­ing. Sur­plusage, Black’s Law Dic­tio­nary (11th ed. 2019).

20. Mendez v. Barr, 960 F.3d 80, 86, 88 (2d Cir. 2020) (hold­ing that mis­pri­sion of a felony is not a CIMT, in part because Con­gress did not include an intent to defraud in the statute, and there­fore, although the crime could be com­mit­ted with an intent to defraud, it is not nec­es­sar­i­ly done so in all cir­cum­stances); see also Ahmed v. Hold­er, 324 F. App’x 82, 83–84 (2d Cir. 2009) (sum­ma­ry order) (hold­ing that vio­la­tions of 42 U.S.C. § 408(a)(7)(B) are not cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly CIMTs, as dis­tin­guished from crimes in which one nec­es­sar­i­ly intends to dis­rupt gov­ern­ment services).

21. Rodriguez v. Gon­za­les, 451 F.3d 60, 63 (2d Cir. 2006); see also Hirsch v. I.N.S., 308 F.2d 562, 567 (9th Cir. 1962) (not­ing that one may know­ing­ly make false state­ments with­out them being fraud­u­lent or with evil intent, ren­der­ing them not moral­ly turpi­tudi­nous); cf. Mat­ter of Ser­na, 20 I. & N. Dec. 579, 585 (BIA 1992) (hold­ing that the pos­ses­sion of forged immi­gra­tion doc­u­ments in vio­la­tion of 18 U.S.C. § 1546 is not a CIMT because “[a]lthough it requires knowl­edge that the immi­gra­tion doc­u­ment was altered, such knowl­edge is not nec­es­sar­i­ly equat­ed with the inten­tion to use the doc­u­ment to defraud the Unit­ed States Government”).

22. Fraud, Black’s Law Dic­tio­nary (11th ed. 2019).

23. U.S. Dep’t of State, For­eign Affs. Man­u­al § 9 FAM § 302.3–2(B)(2)(c)(1)(a) (2022),TURPITUD&url=/FAM/09FAM/09FAM030203.html#M302_3_2_B_2.

24. 42 U.S.C. § 408(a)(7).

25. For exam­ple, in Feb­ru­ary 2021, CVS required that patients who reg­is­tered for a COVID-19 vac­cine on its web­site present their “insur­ance card, Social Secu­ri­ty num­ber and/or driver’s license num­ber at the time of sched­ul­ing.” CVSHealth, We’re Expand­ing Com­mu­ni­ty Access to COVID-19 Vac­cines (Feb. 24, 2021), See also Arias v. Lynch, 834 F.3d 823, 826–27 (7th Cir. 2016) (reject­ing the notion that it would be “inher­ent­ly base, vile, or depraved” for a per­son to “give a false social secu­ri­ty num­ber to obtain treat­ment for her sick child, know­ing she is ready, will­ing, and able to pay for the care”).

26. Ibar­ra-Her­nan­dez v. Hold­er, 770 F.3d 1280, 1282 (9th Cir. 2014) (dis­tin­guish­ing an intent to obtain employ­ment from an intent to defraud, in deem­ing vio­la­tions of an Ari­zona statute, A.R.S. § 13–2008, not to be cat­e­gor­i­cal CIMTs).

27. Put sim­ply, an “intent [only] to obtain employ­ment, [is] not [an intent] to defraud.” Id. at 1281; cf. Mat­ter of B‑, 7 I. & N. Dec. 342, 343–44 (BIA 1956) (find­ing fraud to be implic­it where one “will­ful­ly and know­ing­ly makes any false state­ment in an appli­ca­tion for [a] passport”).

28. In Flo­res-Figueroa v. Unit­ed States, the Supreme Court held that aggra­vat­ed iden­ti­ty theft con­vic­tions require a show­ing that the defen­dant knew the false iden­ti­fi­ca­tion num­bers belonged to anoth­er per­son. 556 U.S. 646, 647 (2009). An alter­na­tive inter­pre­ta­tion would make a defendant’s sen­tence “depend[] on chance.” Id. at 661 (Ali­to, J., con­cur­ring in part and in the judgment).

29. Michel v. I.N.S., 206 F.3d 253, 263 (2d Cir. 2000) (empha­sis added).

30. For exam­ple, in 2018, the Trump Nation­al Golf Club was accused of pro­vid­ing fake Social Secu­ri­ty num­bers and green cards to their undoc­u­ment­ed employ­ees. Alexan­dra Hut­zler, Don­ald Trump’s New Jer­sey Golf Course Alleged­ly Gave Fake Green Cards, Social Secu­ri­ty Num­bers to Undoc­u­ment­ed Employ­ees, Newsweek (Dec. 29, 2018), Nor do employ­ers nec­es­sar­i­ly feel cheat­ed or vic­tim­ized. In Lynch, the defen­dant who vio­lat­ed 42 U.S.C. § 408(a)(7)(B) was not removed from the coun­try, and after she served her sen­tence and secured employ­ment autho­riza­tion, her employ­er read­i­ly rehired her, 834 F.3d at 825, and she also received a “glow­ing let­ter of sup­port from the gen­er­al man­ag­er,” id. at 834 (Pos­ner, J., con­cur­ring in the judgment).

31. Employ­ers can skirt legal con­se­quences for hir­ing undoc­u­ment­ed work­ers with rel­a­tive ease, since it must be proven that they “know­ing­ly” did so; most years, there have been twen­ty or few­er crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tions of this nature, and civ­il suits tend to result in low penal­ties. See Roy Mau­r­er, Do Employ­ers Face Con­se­quences for Hir­ing Unau­tho­rized Work­ers?, SHRM (Sept. 24, 2019), The IRS has lit­tle incen­tive to inves­ti­gate employ­ers sus­pect­ed of hir­ing employ­ees with W‑2s that do not match Social Secu­ri­ty records, due to its lim­it­ed resources and the com­pa­ra­bly low $50 fine for a mis­match. Hunter Hall­man, How Do Undoc­u­ment­ed Immi­grants Pay Fed­er­al Tax­es? An Explain­er, Bipar­ti­san Pol­i­cy Cen­ter (Mar. 28, 2018),

32. Mat­ter of Perez-Con­tr­eras, 20 I. & N. Dec. 615, 618 (BIA 1992).

33. 578 U.S. 356, 360 (2016) (quot­ing Neal v. Clark, 95 U.S. 704, 709 (1878)); see also Fraud, Black’s Law Dic­tio­nary (11th ed. 2019) (dis­tin­guish­ing “actu­al fraud” from “fraud in law,” with the lat­ter being that which “if sanc­tioned, would … secure an uncon­scionable advan­tage, irre­spec­tive of evi­dence of an actu­al intent to defraud”).

34. See, e.g., Marin-Rodriguez v. Hold­er, 710 F.3d 734, 738 (7th Cir. 2013) (mis-cit­ing Jor­dan v. De George, 341 U.S. 223, 232 (1951), for the propo­si­tion that an intent to deceive or defraud makes a crime “unques­tion­ably moral­ly turpi­tudi­nous” despite the cit­ed quo­ta­tion only men­tion­ing fraud).

35. De George, 341 U.S. at 226–27.

36. Id. at 223–24.

37. See, e.g., Lynch, 834 F.3d at 825 (“To work for [the employ­er], [the defen­dant] pro­vid­ed a false social secu­ri­ty num­ber. She has pre­sent­ed evi­dence that she has filed an income tax return for every year she has been in the Unit­ed States through 2012.”); see also infra notes 43–45 and accom­pa­ny­ing text.

38. See Crow­ley, supra note 17, at 212–13, for a dis­cus­sion of how CIMTs were cre­at­ed to “pre­vent[] entry of the tru­ly unde­sir­able” to the Unit­ed States, and sep­a­rate them from the “desir­able.”

39. Id. at 210 (“Although a find­ing of remov­abil­i­ty does not nec­es­sar­i­ly lead to ejec­tion from the Unit­ed States, an alien faces a very great risk of removal once the moral turpi­tude label affixes.”).

40. See Hall­man, supra note 31.

41. In 1996, the Inter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice cre­at­ed Indi­vid­ual Tax­pay­er Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion Num­bers, to allow for “indi­vid­u­als who are not eli­gi­ble for a [Social Secu­ri­ty num­ber],” includ­ing indi­vid­u­als with­out law­ful sta­tus, to file tax­es. The Facts About the Indi­vid­ual Tax­pay­er Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion Num­ber (ITIN), Amer­i­can Immi­gra­tion Coun­cil (Mar. 14, 2022), Addi­tion­al­ly, the laws sur­round­ing employ­ment eli­gi­bil­i­ty ver­i­fi­ca­tion are per­mis­sive: employ­ees are not required to show a Social Secu­ri­ty card to prospec­tive employ­ers, most employ­ers are not required to ver­i­fy the employee’s infor­ma­tion with a gov­ern­ment enti­ty, and employ­ers are for­bid­den from “ask[ing] to see any spe­cif­ic or addi­tion­al doc­u­ments oth­er than what the work­er pro­vides .…” Hall­man, supra note 31.

42. Alex­ia Fer­nán­dez Camp­bell, Trump Says Undoc­u­ment­ed Immi­grants Are an Eco­nom­ic Bur­den. They Pay Bil­lions in Tax­es., Vox (Oct. 25, 2018),

43. See Crow­ley, supra note 17, at 234–35, for a dis­cus­sion of how “[c]lassifying the mis­use of a Social Secu­ri­ty num­ber for an oth­er­wise legal pur­pose as a crime involv­ing moral turpi­tude” only exac­er­bates neg­a­tive eco­nom­ic trends that result from dri­ving out inex­pen­sive immi­grant labor “even in areas of high cit­i­zen unem­ploy­ment.” See also Lynch, 834 F.3d at 834 (Pos­ner J., con­cur­ring in the judg­ment) (con­sid­er­ing the immigrant’s low-cost man­u­al labor and the fact that she paid fed­er­al income tax, say­ing “[t]o pros­e­cute and deport such a harm­less per­son … indeed a pro­duc­tive res­i­dent of the Unit­ed States … would be a waste of tax­pay­ers’ money”).

44. See Lynch, 834 F.3d at 834 (Pos­ner J., con­cur­ring) for a dis­cus­sion on why this is “down­right ridiculous.”

45. Mat­ter of Flo­res, 17 I. & N. Dec. 225, 227 (BIA 1980); see also Mat­ter of Perez-Con­tr­eras, 20 I. & N. Dec. at 618 (describ­ing a CIMT as one with an act “accom­pa­nied by a vicious motive or a cor­rupt mind”); Mat­ter of Abreu-Semi­no, 12 I. & N. Dec. 775, 777 (BIA 1968) (not­ing that “moral turpi­tude nor­mal­ly inheres in the intent”).

46. 503 F.3d 1063, 1069 (9th Cir. 2007) (over­ruled on oth­er grounds).

47. Sig­nif­i­cant­ly, whether or not 42 U.S.C. § 408(a)(7)(B) vio­la­tions are clas­si­fied as CIMTs has no bear­ing on their being pun­ish­able as felonies.

48. See, e.g., Zavala v. Wilkin­son, 839 F. App’x 34 (8th Cir. 2021), cert. denied, 142 S. Ct. 562 (2021).