St. Mary's Law Journal


Individuals who are not United States citizens and participate in violent or severe criminal activity are likely to be deported and become inadmissible for life. But noncitizens can also be deported for minor criminal activity which does not cause harm or serious damage. In such cases, deportation is an extreme punishment out of proportion to the offense. Unauthorized use of a motor vehicle (UUMV) is an example of a crime which can be committed without serious harm or damage. The Fifth Circuit regularly sustains decisions of lifetime reentry ban for noncitizens convicted of UUMV. Under immigration law, “aliens” who are lawful permanent residents (LPR) but who are convicted of aggravated felonies are deportable and permanently excludable from the United States. Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), a crime of violence is an aggravated felony for which the noncitizen is subject to deportation and a lifetime ban on reentry. Some of the most controversial issues involve whether specific crimes are crimes of violence and thus aggravated felonies. In deciding the issue, the United States Supreme Court looks to specific elements in the criminal statute at issue. These elements include the seriousness of the crime and the meaning of crime of violence under the INA. Unfortunately, the Court did not set out specific tests to determine whether offenses are crimes of violence. This gives the Fifth Circuit leeway to rule UUMV a crime of violence. Lacking a bright line test, noncitizens must rely on the Supreme Court to determine whether each new offense charged as a crime of violence is appropriately charged. The suggested guidelines for review by the court in determining whether UUMV is a crime of violence should be extended to all issues. These guidelines include how the offense has been treated in criminal law and the Sentencing Guidelines.


St. Mary's University School of Law