Kawashima v. Holder

PETITIONER: Akio Kawashima, et ux.
RESPONDENT: Eric H. Holder, Jr., Attorney General
LOCATION: Kawashima restaurant

DOCKET NO.: 10-577
DECIDED BY: Roberts Court (2010-2016)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 565 US (2012)
GRANTED: May 23, 2011
ARGUED: Nov 07, 2011
DECIDED: Feb 21, 2012

Curtis E. Gannon - Assistant to the Solicitor Gen­eral, Department of Justice, for the respondent
Thomas J. Whalen - for the petitioners

Facts of the case

Akio Kawashima and Fusako Kawashima are natives and citizens of Japan. The Kawashimas were admitted to the United States as lawful permanent residents in 1984. Nearly 10 years later, Akio Kawashima pleaded guilty to subscribing to a false statement on a federal tax return, and Fusako Kawashima pleaded guilty to aiding and assisting in preparing the false tax return statement.

Immigration officials began proceedings to deport the couple who had failed to report more than $245,126 in taxable income from two restaurants they own. Anything more than $10,000 is considered an aggravated felony, and the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit upheld their deportation.


Is filing a false statement on a corporate tax return an aggravated felony involving fraud or deceit, which would render the immigrant removable?

Media for Kawashima v. Holder

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 07, 2011 in Kawashima v. Holder

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - February 21, 2012 in Kawashima v. Holder

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

Justice Thomas has our opinion this morning in Case 10-577, Kawashima versus Holder.

Clarence Thomas:

This case comes to us on a writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Mr. and Mrs. Kawashima, who are citizens of Japan and who are at lawful permanent residence in this country, were both convicted of federal tax crimes.

Mr. Kawashima was convicted of knowingly and willfully submitting a materially false tax return and Mrs. Kawashima was convicted of willfully aiding or assisting in the preparation of the materially false tax return.

An Immigration Judge ordered the Kawashimas removed from the United States on the ground that their convictions qualified as aggravated felonies.

Specifically, the Immigration Judge determined that the convictions involved fraud or deceit that caused a loss to the Government of at least $10,000.

The Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed the Immigration Judge's decision.

The Ninth Circuit agreed that the Kawashima's conviction involved fraud or deceit, but it remanded for the Board to determine whether Mrs. Kawashima's conviction had, in fact, caused a loss to the Government in excess of $10,000.

In an opinion filed with the Clerk today, we affirm.

The Immigration and Nationality Act grants the Attorney General the authority to remove any alien who is convicted of an aggravated felony at anytime after admission to this country.

The Act defines an aggravated felony as among other things, an offense that involves fraud or deceit.

To determine whether an offense involves fraud or deceit, we look to the statute defining the crime of conviction rather than to the specific facts underlying the crime.

Mr. Kawashima was convicted of violating a statute that states that anyone who "willfully makes and subscribes any return which contains or is verified by a written declaration that it is made under the penalties of perjury, and which he does not believe to be true and correct as to every material matter," shall be guilty of a felony.

Although, neither "fraud" nor "deceit" is a formal element of that crime, Mr. Kawashima's conviction necessarily involved deceit because it entailed knowingly and willfully submitting a tax return that was materially false.

Similarly, Mrs. Kawashima was convicted of violating a statute that declares that any person who "willfully aids or assists in the preparation or presentation of a return which is fraudulent or as false as to any material matter" has committed a felony.

Mrs. Kawashima's conviction also necessarily involved deceit because it entailed knowingly and willfully assisting the filing of a materially false return.

By its plain language, the Immigration and Nationality Act incorporates a broad class of offenses that involved fraud or deceit within the definition of an aggravated felony.

We reject that Kawashima's argument that Congress limited the scope of that broad language by stating in a second provision that tax evasion is also an aggravated felony when the tax loss to the Government exceeds $10,000.

The Kawashimas assert that by expressly making tax evasion an aggravated felony, Congress implicitly removed all other tax offenses, including the Kawashimas' offenses, from the category of crimes involving fraud and deceit.

We disagree.

We think it more likely that Congress sought to remove any doubt that's the serous offense of tax evasion was an aggravated felony.

Moreover, nothing in the provision for tax evasion alters the otherwise plain meaning of crimes involving fraud or deceit.

Because the Kawashimas are subject to deportation as aliens who have been convicted of aggravated felonies, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is affirmed.

Justice Ginsburg has filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justices Breyer and Kagan join.