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San Francisco Bay Area Immigration Blog

Immigration Law Illegally Equated Alcoholism with Poor Moral Character

In a 2-1 decision from the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on March 24, 2016, the court struck down part of an immigration law that made it very difficult for a person who habitually and excessively drinks alcohol to fight deportation.

The court’s majority stated that alcoholism has long been recognized as a medical disability and a statute targeting people who regularly drink to excess is effectively targeting those with chronic alcoholism. The court ultimately held that the 50-year-old federal law linking drunkenness with poor moral character violated equal protection guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. The dissent disagreed with the majority’s decision and argued that just because alcoholism is a medical condition, does not mean the person suffering from that condition will always lack free will or that no element of drunkenness can be vulnerable to a moral assessment. “Chronic alcoholics do not have to be habitual drunkards.”