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Matter of R-S-S-: Commercial Sex Work & CIMTs

What is a crime involving moral turpitude?  Generally speaking, a noncitizen who has been convicted of crime involving moral turpitude can be removed from the United States or denied entry.  But because the term is so vague, it can be hard to know just to which crimes it applies?


In a case pending before the Board of Immigration Appeals, we wrote a brief on behalf of the American Immigration Lawyers Association explaining how the term “crime involving moral turpitude” needs to be rethought when it comes to commercial sex.  In the case called “R-S-S-“, the man paid money to another for sex. In doing so, he engaged in a commercial transaction more than two millennia old that is presently regulated in the United States with a quirky patch of state, federal and international rules.


We explain in the brief why, though it may be criminal in some parts of the country to engage in sex for pay, it is not a crime involving moral turpitude. Simple prostitution, as we define and explain below, does not involve moral turpitude. It is neither turpitdunous to pay for sex nor to offer sex for pay. Neither the sex worker nor client engages in behavior that is base or vile. Consensual, adult sexual relations, even those with a commercial element, should not be punished with deportation for either individual involved in the exchange, the sex worker or client.

The brief is available here.