Section 237 Deportability Statutes (Section 237(a)(2): Criminal Grounds)


Introduction to Section 237 of the Immigration and Nationality Act

Section 237 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA)Section 237 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), codified as 8 U.S. Code 1227, is titled “Deportable aliens.” This section provides for the deportability of aliens who have been admitted into the United States. In addition to listing the deportability provisions, section 237 also lists waivers applicable to many of these provisions.

In this article, we will provide a brief overview of the clauses found in section 237(a)(2) related to deportability for criminal offenses, and the associated waivers, where applicable. To learn about other parts of section 237, please see our collection of articles:

  • Criminal Deportability Grounds [see article]
  • Document-Related Deportability Grounds [see article]
  • False Claim of U.S. Citizenship [see article]
  • Security and Related Grounds [see article]
  • Public Charge [see article]
  • Unlawful Voters [see article]
  • Special Cases for Diplomats, Special Immigrant Juveniles, and T and U Applicants [see article]

The provisions discussed in this article apply to any alien who is “in and admitted to the United States.” It does not cover alien crewman.

Please see the following links for the text of section 8 U.S.C. 1227 [link; PDF version]. Please note that in this article, we will be using the INA numbering (237) instead of the U.S. Code numbering (1227). However, the subsections after the section number are identical in this article and in the U.S. Code (e.g., INA 237(a)(2)(A) refers to the same provision as 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)).

Please refer to the links we offer in the article to go into more detail on some of the topics.

A. General Crimes

Section 237(a)(2)(A) includes several crimes that may render an alien deportable or removable from the United States.

Crimes of Moral Turpitude

First, section 237(a)(2)(A)(i)(I) renders deportable an alien who is convicted of a CIMT committed within five years of admission into the United States. If the alien becomes a lawful permanent resident (LPR) through section 245(j), this provision extends to a CIMT conviction within 10 years of the alien's acquiring LPR status through section 245(j). Section 245(j) refers to the acquisition of LPR status for those initially admitted to the United States in S-visa status.

Second, section 237(a)(2)(A)(i)(II) renders deportable an alien convicted of a CIMT for which a sentence of one year or longer may be imposed, regardless of the sentence actually imposed. This provision is not limited by when the crime was committed relative to the alien's admission into the United States.

Please see our article on the Matter of Tima, 26 I&N Dec. 839 (BIA 2016) [PDF version] [see article], wherein we discuss the inapplicability of the deportability waiver found in section 237(a)(1)(H) [see article] to section 237(a)(2)(A)(i).

Multiple Criminal Convictions

Section 237(a)(2)(A)(ii) renders deportable an alien who is at any time after admission convicted of two or more CIMTs, regardless of when committed. However, while this provision is not time-limited, it does not apply when the multiple CIMT convictions “[arise] out of a single scheme of criminal misconduct, regardless of whether confined therefor and regardless of whether the convictions were at a similar trial.” In effect, this means that the multiple CIMT convictions must arise from different acts or “schemes” of criminal misconduct in order to trigger section 237(a)(2)(A)(ii) deportability. However, depending on the circumstances of the convictions, an alien may be deportable under one of the clauses of section 237(a)(2)(A)(i), see above, even if his or her CIMT convictions arise out of a single scheme of criminal misconduct.

Aggravated Felony Conviction

Under section 237(a)(2)(A)(iii), if an alien is convicted of an immigration aggravated felony listed in section 101(a)(43), he or she is deportable. The alien will be deportable if the conviction occurs any time after admission, thereby meaning that this provision is not time limited. Please see our overview of the immigration aggravated felonies found in section 101(a)(43) to learn more [see article]. A non-permanent resident alien who is removable under section 237(a)(2)(A)(iii) may be subject to administrative removal instead of regular removal proceedings. Please see our full article to learn more [see article].

High Speed Flight

Under section 237(a)(2)(A)(iv), any alien who is convicted of violation of 18 U.S.C. 758 is deportable. 18 U.S.C. 758 is a federal criminal statute that criminalizes high speed flight from an immigration checkpoint.

Specifically, 18 U.S.C. 758 criminalizes fleeing or evading a checkpoint operated by any Federal law enforcement agency, in a motor vehicle, and flight from Federal, State, or local law enforcement agents in excess of the legal speed limit. In addition to rendering an alien deportable under the INA, a conviction under this statute subjects an individual to a fine, imprisonment for not more than five years, or both.

Failure to Register as a Sex Offender

Under section 237(a)(2)(A)(v), any alien who is convicted in violation of 18 U.S.C. 2250 is deportable. 18 U.S.C. 2250 is a federal criminal statute that criminalizes the failure to register as a sex offender. The federal statute contains general provisions for the knowing failure to register as a sex offender when required under federal law. It is important to note that many offenses or conduct that would require an alien to register a sex offender may render the alien subject to other penalizing provisions of the INA. It is important for an alien in such a situation to consult with an experienced immigration attorney.

Please see our full article on section 237(a)(2)(A)(v) deportability to learn more [see article].

Limited Waiver

If an alien who is deportable under clause (i), (ii), (iii), or (iv) is granted a full and unconditional pardon of the criminal conviction that caused the deportability by the President of the United States or by a Governor of the state wherein the conviction occurred, the alien will no longer be subject to deportability on that basis. Please note that this waiver applies to all of the above provisions except for a conviction for failure to register as a sex offender.

B. Controlled Substances

Section 237(a)(2)(B)(i) of the INA renders deportable any alien who, at any time after admission, has been convicted of a violation of any law or regulation of the United States, a state, or a foreign country relating to a controlled substance (as defined in 21 U.S.C. 802). This also applies to when an alien is found to have conspired to violate or attempted to violate any such controlled substances law. There is a very limited exception for when an alien was convicted of a single offense involving possession for his or her own use of 30 grams or less of marijuana.

Please see our full article to see section 237(a)(2)(B)(i) [see article].

Section 237(a)(2)(B)(ii) renders deportable an alien who, at any time after admission, has been a drug abuser or drug addict. This deportability provision does require a conviction.

C. Certain Firearm Offenses

Section 237(a)(2)(C) renders deportable an alien who at any time after admission is convicted under any law of “purchasing, selling, offering for sale, exchanging, using, owning, possessing, or carrying, or of attempting or conspiring to purchase, sell offer for sale, exchange, use, own, possess, or carry, any weapon, part, accessory which is a firearm or destructive device in violation of any law.” The terms “firearm” and “destructive” device are defined in 18 U.S.C. 921(a).

D. Miscellaneous Crimes

Section 237(a)(2)(D) renders deportable an alien who has at any time been convicted or has been convicted of a conspiracy to violate one of the following provisions.

Espionage, Sabotage, and Treason and Sedition

If an alien is convicted of an offense or convicted of conspiring or attempting to commit an offense found in 18 U.S.C. 37 (relating to espionage), 105 (relating to sabotage), or 115 (relating to treason and sedition), he or she will be deportable if the conviction carries with it a possible term of imprisonment of 5 years or more. It is important to note that “5 years or more” refers to the maximum sentence that could be imposed as opposed to the actual sentence that was imposed.

Threats to the President and Successors to the Presidency and Expeditions Against Friendly Nations

Section 237(a)(2)(D)(ii) renders deportable an alien who is convicted in violation of 18 U.S.C. 871 or 960.

18 U.S.C. 871 is a federal criminal statute criminalizing the mailing or delivery of certain threats to the President of the United States, the President-elect, the Vice President, or any officer next in line to the Presidency. We discuss this criminal statute in a short article on site [see article].

Conviction for violating 18 U.S.C. 960 also renders an alien deportable. Section 960 applies to individuals in the United States. It provides that an individual in the United States who knowingly:

  • begins or sets on foot, or
  • provides or prepares a means for, or
  • furnishes the money for, or
  • takes part in,

any military or naval expedition or enterprise to be carried on from the United States against the territory or dominion of any foreign prince or state, or of any colony, district, or people with whom the United States is at peace, he or she may be convicted under the statute and fined, imprisoned not more than three years, or both.

Certain Selective Service or Trading With the Enemy Act Violations

Under section 237(a)(2)(D)(iii), an alien who is convicted of the violation of any provision of the Military Selective Service Act (see 50 U.S.C. App. 451 et seq.) is deportable.

In a separate issue, to learn more about Selective Service and immigration law, please see our article on how the issue relates to naturalization (note, does not address violations of the Selective Service Act) [see article].

Section 237(a)(2)(D)(iii) also renders deportable an alien who is convicted of the violation of the Trading With the Enemy Act (see 50 U.S.C. App. 1 et seq).

Violation of Travel Control or Importation of Aliens for Immoral Purpose

Section 237(a)(2)(D)(iv) renders deportable an alien who violates or conspires to violate section 215 or section 278 of the INA.

Section 215 sets rules and prohibitions for having authorization to enter or depart the United States, and the required permits (passports, visas, reentry permits, and other documents required for entry) to enter or depart. Section 215 of the INA refers to travel restrictions on both aliens and U.S. citizens. Because section 237 only applies to aliens, only those portions of section 215 that refer to aliens are subject to section 237. Please see our full article to learn more about section 215 [see article].

Section 278 proscribes the importation of any alien into the United States for prostitution or any other immoral purpose. This statute also covers indirectly attempting to import an alien for prostitution or any other immoral purpose.

E. Domestic Violence, Stalking, Violation of a Protection Order, and Crimes Against Children

Section 237(a)(2)(E) of the INA contains two distinct clauses. Clause (i) pertains to deportability for domestic violence, stalking, and child abuse. Clause (ii) pertains to deportability for those who violate certain orders of protection.

Under section 237(a)(2)(E)(i), an alien who, at any time after admission, is convicted of a crime of domestic violence, a crime of stalking, or a crime of child abuse, child neglect, or child abandonment is deportable.

The definition for the term “crime of domestic violence” borrows from the definition of a “crime of violence” found in 18 U.S.C. 16, the same provision that the INA's provision for aggravated felony crime of violence relies upon in section 101(a)(43)(F). However, in order to be deportable for a “crime of domestic violence,” the crime of violence must be committed against a current or former spouse of the person, against an individual with whom the person shares a child in common, against an individual who the person is cohabiting with or has cohabited with as a spouse, against an individual “similarly situated to a spouse of the person under the domestic or family violence laws of the jurisdiction where the offense occurs” (e.g., a civil union partner where such exists under state law), or against any other individual who is protected from the person's acts under the family or domestic laws of the United States, any state, Indian tribal government, or local unit of government.

Our site currently has articles on two Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) precedent decisions addressing section 237(a)(2)(E)(i) deportability. Firstly, our article on the Matter of H. Estrada, 26 I&N Dec. 749 (BIA 2016) [PDF version] [see article] addresses the use of the circumstance specific approach in determining whether the victim of a crime of violence had one of the relationships with the perpetrator that would render the perpetrator subject to deportation under section 237(a)(2)(E)(i). Secondly, our article on the Matter of Mendoza Osorio, 26 I&N Dec. 703 (BIA 2016) [PDF version] [see article] addresses the approach for determining whether a conviction is for a “crime of child abuse, child neglect, or child abandonment.”

Section 237(a)(2)(E)(ii) renders deportable an alien who, at any time after admission, is enjoined under a protection order by a court and then who is found by the court to have engaged in conduct that violates any portion of the order of protection that involves protection against:

  • Credible threats of violence;
  • Repeated harassment; or
  • Bodily injury to the person or persons for whom the protection order was issued.

Clause (ii) defines a “protection order” as being “any injunction issued for the purpose of preventing violent or threatening acts of domestic violence, including temporary or final orders issued by civil or criminal courts (other than support or child custody orders or provisions) whether obtained by filing an independent action or as a pendente lite order in another proceeding.”

While the provision against those who violate orders of protection is broad, the violation must be related to a portion of the order described in the above list. However, an alien who is found to have violated an order of protection in a manner described in section 237(a)(2)(E)(ii) will be subject to deportation regardless of when the violation occurred with respect to the alien's admission into the United States.

F. Significant Traffickers in Persons

Under section 237(a)(2)(F), any alien described by the inadmissibility provision in section 212(a)(2)(H) is deportable.

Section 212(a)(2)(H) specifies provisions for inadmissibility for significant traffickers in persons. We discuss the provision for inadmissibility for significant traffickers in persons in our article about inadmissibility for criminal and related grounds [see section].


Section 237(a)(2) of the INA includes many provisions providing for the deportability of those with certain criminal convictions or for related activities. If an alien is charged with deportability for any reason, he or she should consult with an experienced immigration attorney immediately for guidance on how to contest the charges or whether there exist any avenues for relief from removal or deportation.

Please see our article on inadmissibility on criminal or related grounds to learn about how certain criminal activities may render an individual inadmissible to the United States [see article].