Now that the Mardi Gras season is over, the federal criminal defense and immigration defense lawyers in Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami Dade county may want to take a few moments moment to read a newly issued opinion from the United States Supreme Court: Kawashima v. Holder, No. 10-577. On February 21, 2012, the Court affirmed the deportation and removal of Akio and Fusako Kawashima, natives and citizens of Japan who were lawful permanent residents of the United States since June 21, 1984. According to the opinion, in 1997, Mr. Kawashima pleaded guilty to one count of willfully making and subscribing a false tax return in violation of 26 U.S.C. § 7206(1), and Mrs. Kawashima pleaded guilty to one count of aiding and assisting in the preparation of a false tax return in violation of 26 U.S.C. § 7206(2). After framing the issue as “whether aliens who commit certain federal tax crimes are subject to deportation as aliens who have been convicted of an aggravated felony,” the Court held that “violations of 26 U. S. C. §§ 7206(1) and (2) are crimes ‘involv[ing] fraud or deceit’ under 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(43)(M)(i) and are therefore aggravated felonies as that term is defined in the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U. S. C. § 1101 et seq., when the loss to the Government exceeds $10,000.”
Justice Thomas delivered the majority opinion of the Court, and was joined by the other conservative members of the Court, Chief Justice Roberts, and Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Alito, and Sotomayor. Although the majority opinion is a rather short 11 pages, be warned: the writing is a dry, statutory construction discussion of several tax and immigration sections, including 26 U.S.C. §§ 7206(1), (2), and 8 U.S.C. §§ 1101(a)(43)(M)(i) and 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
As with most Supreme Court opinions, the dissenting opinion is once again the most interesting part to read. While Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, and Kagan also undertake a statutory-construction discussion, the critical tone in which the dissenters point out the flaws of the majority opinion cannot be mistaken. Ordinarily, I would summarize the points in the dissenting opinion for you, but in this case, Justice Ginsburg’s writing is so persuasive, that I think that you really should take a few moments and read it for yourself.
On a side note, I am interested to see how much media attention, if any, the Kawashima opinion will receive. Immigration is always a hot-button issue in American politics, but I suspect that this case will attract little, if any attention. After all, it’s a boring tax and immigration case, right? If any of you are basketball fans out there, you probably know of some of the racial comments that have been made about the New York Knicks’ Jeremy Lin. And if you read the article that I read on CNN this morning, you might also know that for some reason, racism against Asians appears to be more socially acceptable than racism against other minority groups. Saturday Night Live addressed that topic nicely, as you’ll see if you read the article yourself. I suspect that in light of today’s culture, nobody will care much at all about the fact that Mr. and Mrs. Kawashima are going to be deported because they are Asian. I hope that’s not the case. I hope that people instead think about what really happened here: Mr. and Mrs. Kawashima, lawful permanent residents of the U.S. since 1984, made the unfortunate choice of filing false tax returns. And now they are being deported?