Akio and Fukado Kawashima came to Southern California in 1984 as lawful Japanese immigrants with a fierce desire to succeed in business. They operated popular sushi restaurants in Thousand Oaks and Tarzana and recently opened a new eatery in Encino. But after they underreported their business income in 1991, the Internal Revenue Service hit them with $245,000 in taxes and penalties. The couple pleaded guilty and paid in full.
Ten years later, the Immigration and Naturalization Service decided to deport them. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered the final blow, ruling 6 to 3 that Immigration and Customs Enforcement — as the INS is now known — was within its authority to declare such a tax crime an “aggravated felony,” subjecting an immigrant to automatic deportation. Once limited to murderers and drug kingpins, this deportation trigger has steadily expanded over the years. “It’s really sad — and really unfair,” Wakako Kawashima, the couple’s daughter-in-law, said at the door of her home in Thousand Oaks. The restaurants have been the couple’s life work, she said, and the family is crushed that a mistake two decades ago could result in their deportation. Tax lawyers said the ruling in the case of Kawashima vs. Holder S Ct case 10-577 sends an ominous warning to legal immigrants throughout the country, and especially to small-business owners whose tax liabilities may be large enough to attract IRS attention. Under the court’s holding, an immigrant who makes a false statement on a tax return could face not only tax charges but also automatic deportation.” – L.A. Times, Feb. 26, 2012.
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