The admissibility of Elizabeth May

On the Jeff O’Neil Show this morning they mentioned that Elizabeth May had been charged with contempt of court. Breathlessly, the hosts proclaimed that now she “can’t cross the border.” Apparently this situation is much more benign. May has been charged with civil contempt, but the judge recommended that she be charged with criminal contempt. In either case, Elizabeth May should still be admissible to the United States.

Criminal Inadmissibility

Not all criminal convictions will render someone inadmissible to the United States. U.S. Prostitution, drug trafficking, human trafficking, money laundering, and crimes involving moral turpitude will result in inadmissibility.

any alien convicted of, or who admits having committed, or who admits committing acts which constitute the essential elements of a crime involving moral turpitude (other than a purely political offense) or an attempt or conspiracy to commit such a crime, … is inadmissible.

Elizabeth May has not been convicted of any crime, nor has she admitted to committing any crime. She hasn’t even been charged with a crime yet. Even if the current case against her transforms into a criminal charge, she still has not yet been convicted of, or admitted to anything. In any event, a conviction for contempt of court is unlikely to result in inadmissibility to the U.S.

Crime Involving Moral Turpitude (CIMT)

“Moral turpitude refers generally to conduct which is inherently base, vile, or depraved, and contrary to the accepted rules of morality and the duties owed between persons or to society in general.” (Matter of Franklin). To determine whether an offense is a CIMT, immigration authorities examine the statute to determine whether it is within the generic definition of a CIMT (Matter of Silva-Trevino). If the “minimum conduct that has a realistic probability of being prosecuted under the statute” is within the general definition of a CIMT, then anyone convicted of that crime will be inadmissible.

British Columbia’s court regulations defining the crime of contempt are apparently now defunct, however, federal court regulations define it as follows:

Subject to rule 467, a person is guilty of contempt of Court who

(b) disobeys a process or order of the Court;

In Matter of P the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) held that a conviction for contempt of court that arose from disobeying a court order was not a CIMT. There, the applicant for admission to the US was an elected official of the woodworker’s union working on a ship. The woodworkers were on strike, and the longshoremen refused to cross their picket line. Later, the owner of the ship sought, and obtained an injunction against the woodworkers, restraining them from preventing or interfering with the loading of the ship. The woodworkers continued to block access to the ship, and so “the applicant was brought into court on a writ of attachment for contempt in failing to obey the order of the court.”

Noting that the “applicant’s conduct did not show the hardness of heart and callousness which so frequently are appendages to a crime involving moral turpitude” the BIA found that he had not been convicted of a CIMT. Given the similarities between Elizabeth May’s conduct, and the facts in Matter of P, it seems highly unlikely that May’s conduct will be viewed as “inherently base, vile, or depraved.” The statue defining criminal contempt captures the exact conduct of May, and the applicant in Matter of P. Since this conduct appears to fall outside the definition of a CIMT, May will likely be admissible to the United States even if her current case transitions from civil to criminal, and she is convicted.

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