Do Substance Abusers Exhibit Good Moral Character?

By Dan Cadman, March 30, 2016

Those merry pranksters at the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (9-CCA) have been having their way with the immigration law again, reinterpreting it into an image more consonant with their Left Coast views.

I recently wrote a blog post about how the 9-CCA decided that California's identity theft laws didn't rise to the level of moral turpitude as a basis for deportability, despite common sense to the contrary. Now they've turned their incessantly wandering eyes upon the matter of habitual drunkenness — which subjects one to a variety of immigration penalties, including removal and denial of benefits or relief, for lack of good moral character.

"Not so!" says the court, overturning a Board of Immigration Appeals decision upholding an immigration judge's finding that an alien was not entitled to cancellation of his order of removal because, being an habitual drunkard, he lacked good moral character. Lacking any clear basis under law, fact, or even reason for its rationale, the panel reviewing the case decided to hang its hat on the "equal protection of the law" provisions of the Constitution — a Gumby-like stretch if ever there was one — because alcoholism is an illness, a medical condition.

Undoubtedly it is. But it is also a social plague with devastating consequences, which also deserve to be calculated into the equation when considering whether alcoholics can possibly exhibit good moral character. It has been reported that nearly 30 people die daily as the result of drunk driving. Take a look at some of the other sobering statistics on the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) website, which can be found here. Alcohol is also an outsize factor in domestic abuse cases, and the National Council on Alcoholism tells us that alcoholism is a factor in 40 percent of violent crimes in America. Are we to ignore all of that data?

And, since we've been led down this path by the court, it's worth noting that under immigration law drug addicts are also excludable, deportable, and lacking in good moral character. Drug addition, too, is a medical condition, but, like alcoholism, it is one with serious social consequences. Junkies, crack heads, and meth tweakers stop at little or nothing to obtain their supply. Laws and social restraints cease to have meaning in their pursuit of the next high. How long until the 9-CCA decides that they, too, can exhibit good moral character notwithstanding what seems to the rest of us to be a signal moral failing that all of society pays a price for?

And how about pedophilia, which is classified as a mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) in its "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders"? Shall we overlook pedophiles who act on their urges or who share pornographic pictures of children being victimized and decide that they, too, must be considered of good moral character under the "equal protection" clause of the Constitution, and therefore not subject to removal since they are plagued with a mental illness?

I don't know about you, but I'm not buying it.