Pereida”s offense was to present a fake Social Security card in order to obtain employment. The crime was certainly minor if judged by the penalty imposed–a $100 fine and no jail time. The issue, however, was whether presenting a fake Social Security card constituted a “crime of moral turpitude.”
The ambiguity here lies in the fact that the Nebraska state law Pereida was convicted of includes several distinct offenses. Some of these offenses require the defendant to have an “intent to deceive* to be guilty, while other offenses that are also called criminal impersonation” do not require an intent to deceive.
Pereida’s criminal record did not indicate whether or not his conviction required a finding of an intent to deceive. This is critical because under US immigration law, a criminal offense that requires a finding that the defendant had an “intent to deceive” counts as a crime of moral turpitude, and would thereby result in a denial of Pereida’s application.
The Supreme Court ruled that the party seeking relief from deportation bears the burden of proving that they are eligible for that relief. Since Pereida’s criminal record did not indicate whether intent to deceive was a necessary element of the crime, there was no way for Pereida to meet this burden. Consequently, Pereida lost his appeal and his application for cancellation of removal was denied.