Can arrests or convictions of student protesters bar them from future entry to the USA? I have been asked this increasingly. A complete answer could fill a booklet.The ultimate conclusion is yes, in some cases. The details, translated from legalese into plainspeak, are the following.
U.S.Immigration Law lists grounds for excluding aliens who have been convicted or admit to acts involving “Moral Turpitude’. Political offenses are not included. Whether demonstrations over increased tuitions are political offenses, is doubtful. But even if they are considered political, that does not shelter the individual from Moral Turpitude acts because they chance to be connected to a political demonstration
What is moral turpitude? This expression, unique to U.S. law, refers to conduct which is“inherently base, vile or depraved, contrary to the accepted roles of morality and the duties owed between men… and society”. Application of this bar is more lenient for those who were under 18 at the time and who had only one crime recorded. Older or multiple offenders face more serious barriers.
The USA has printed some guidelines to be used. (People who aid, abet, conspire or shelter the individual actor may also be subject.) Mere disorderly conduct or riot is not a crime of Moral Turpitude.
Here is my sampler of some specific acts reported thus far in Montreal.
ACTION / GROUNDS FOR BAR
Breaking windows, damaging vehicles - Malicious destruction of property
Molotov cocktails - Assault with a deadly weapon
Throwing rocks or projectiles - Assault with a dangerous weapon
Smoke bombs in Metro - Assault with a dangerous weapon
Demonstrating naked or in underwear - Lewdness or Gross indecency
The definition of nakedness as lewdness is not specifically defined in the Federal law.
New York state penal law Section 245 amusingly goes into great detail. Unclothed public disclosure of the person`s private or intimate parts is lewd. As to clothed, female breasts, merely above the top of the areaola is not lewd. As to covered male penises, a “discernibly turgid state” is lewd. (So, protesters be warned, no nipples, no erections)
Mr Toben, once a legal officer for IATA, is now a consultant on US work permits for several Montreal law and accounting firms.