Crimes of Moral Turpitude


§ 3.31 B. American Baptist Church (ABC) Settlement

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American Baptist Churches v. Thornburgh (ABC)[394] was an historic lawsuit brought in part to correct discriminatory INS practices in adjudicating Salvadoran and Guatemalan political asylum applications.  Registration to participate in the case has closed.  The settlement in the case provided thousands of Salvadorans and Guatemalans the right to a new asylum interview and adjudication before a newly trained Asylum Officer.  This was open to persons who had never applied for asylum as well as persons whose cases were before an immigration judge or on appeal to the BIA or a federal court.  As long as an ABC class member is eligible and has registered for ABC, any pre-existing asylum case is administratively closed to permit the person to go to a de novo ABC asylum interview.  If the person is denied asylum at this new interview, the case will be reopened and proceed from the procedural point it had reached before the ABC interview.


Salvadorans could register for ABC directly or their application for temporary protected status could be construed as registration for ABC benefits.  Guatemalans were required to register for ABC benefits.


An additional benefit to being part of the ABC lawsuit is that it is a way to meet requirements for the NACARA benefits for Guatemalans and Salvadorans.[395]


The only criminal bar to ABC benefits is conviction of an aggravated felony.  While the DHS applies the same rule regarding date of conviction to ABC class members as it does to other applicants for asylum, only post-November 18, 1988 convictions were contemplated in the settlement.  The DHS will detain ABC class members who are convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude for which the sentence imposed exceeded six months, who pose a national security risk, or who pose a threat to public safety.  All other ABC class members must be released from DHS detention. 


The BIA found that an ABC class member who is not an aggravated felon or a specified public safety concern is entitled to administrative closure of removal proceedings upon request, under the settlement agreement.[396]  For more on ABC applications, see discussion in K. Brady, Defending Immigrants in the Ninth Circuit § 11.16 (9th ed. 2007).


[394]  American Baptist Churches v. Thornburgh, Civ. No. C-85-3255 RFP (N.D.Cal.).

[395] See § 3.22, supra.

[396]  Matter of Morales, 21 I. & N. Dec. 130 (BIA 1995).



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