Friday, February 23, 2007

"Any Blank Permit" In Second Paragraph of 18 U.S.C. § 1546(a) Includes Both Real and Fake Documents

United States v. Uvalle-Patricio, No. 05-40309 (5th Cir. Feb. 12, 2007) (Smith, Garza, Clement)

18 U.S.C. § 1546(a) criminalizes a variety of conduct relating to immigration document fraud. "The first paragraph of § 1546(a) criminalizes possession of forged immigration documents[,]" while the second paragraph, "as a whole, criminalizes possession of materials that can be used to produce false immigration documents." Slip op. at 4-5.

Uvalle was caught at a Border Patrol checkpoint with fake blank I-551 (green card) forms. The government charged him under the portion of the second paragraph of § 1546(a) that prohibits "knowingly possess[ing] any blank permit[.]" Uvalle argued that "any blank permit" only refers to the possession of real documents, not fake ones.

The court of appeals disagreed. Relying on what it considered to be the plain language of the statute, as well as "the operation of the statute as a whole and in context with other provisions[,]" it held that "any blank permit" includes both real and fake documents.

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