St. Mary's Law Journal


Gregory L. Ryan


Responding to the terrorist bombing in Oklahoma City, Congress spent several months researching and discussing the best ways to strengthen the United States’ ability to deter and punish terrorism. In 1996, Congress sent a bill to the President designed to make the country safer, and President Clinton signed the bill into law: The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA). The AEDPA mandates a foreign national convicted of perjury be deported. Tucked away in the middle of the AEDPA, strict sanctions are imposed on noncitizens who commit perjury or subordination of perjury. In an attempt to strengthen the government’s ability to deport aliens convicted of serious crimes, the AEDPA adds the offense of perjury or subordination of perjury to the growing list of aggravated felonies. Traditionally, deportation has been reserved for foreign nationals convicted of more serious offenses, often involving the threat or use of violence. Thus, aliens convicted of perjury will receive the same punishment as those convicted of murder, drug trafficking, and kidnapping for ransom. Although an infraction of the law, the commission of perjury is in no logical or rational sense as serious an infraction as is the crime of first-degree murder. Not only does society recognize a difference in the gravity between the offenses of perjury and murder, Congress also believes the crime of perjury is less harmful to society as murder. Government-imposed deportation of one who is not a United States citizen is indeed a drastic measure. In some cases, such measures are proper to protect those who reside in this country from noncitizens whose actions inflict terrible harm and destruction. Yet, the untruthful testimony under oath of noncitizens do not pose as dangerous risk to the general public as does a noncitizen murderer.


St. Mary's University School of Law