Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Matter of GUEVARA ALFARO: Silva-Trevino's mandatory three-step framework supports finding that intentional sexual conduct by an adult with a child is a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude (CIMT).

In Matter of GUEVARA ALFARO, 25 I&N Dec. 417 (BIA 2011), the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) held that:
  1. Any intentional sexual conduct by an adult with a child involves moral turpitude, as long as the perpetrator knew or should have known that the victim was under the age of 16.
  2. Absent otherwise controlling authority, Immigration Judges and the Board of Immigration Appeals are bound to apply all three steps of the procedural framework set forth by the Attorney General in Matter of Silva-Trevino for determining whether a particular offense constitutes a crime involving moral turpitude.
In a decision dated April 27, 2010, an Immigration Judge terminated the removal proceedings against the respondent. The Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) appealed from that decision. The appeal was ultimately sustained, the proceedings reinstated, and the record remanded for further proceedings.

The respondent in this case was a citizen of El Salvador  who adjusted his status to that of a lawful permanent resident in 1997. He was placed in removal proceedings after being convicted of several offenses, including unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor (statutory rape) in violation of section 261.5(d) of the California Penal Code. That section provides as follows:
Any person 21 years of age or older who engages in an act of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor who is under 16 years of age is guilty of either a misdemeanor or a felony, and shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years.
In Matter of Silva-Trevino the Attorney General established a three-part framework for determining whether a particular offense constitutes a crime involving moral turpitude.

  • First, a categorical approach must be employed under which the criminal statute at issue is examined to ascertain whether moral turpitude is intrinsic to all offenses that have a “realistic probability” of being prosecuted under that statute.
  • Second, if the issue cannot be resolved under the categorical approach, a modified categorical approach should be undertaken, which requires inspection of specific documents comprising the alien’s record of conviction (such as the indictment, the judgment of conviction, jury instructions, a signed guilty plea, or the plea transcript) to discern the nature of the underlying conviction. 
  • Finally, if the record of conviction is inconclusive, probative evidence beyond the record of conviction (such as an admission by the alien or testimony before the Immigration Judge) may be considered when evaluating whether an alien’s offense constitutes a crime involving moral turpitude. 
When applying Matter of Silva-Trevino to this case, the BIA analyzed this case as follows:
  • It first analyzed section 261.5(d) of the California Penal Code under the categorical approach. Since the statute does not require a perpetrator to have engaged in intentional sexual contact with someone he or she knew or should have known to be a child, there is a realistic probability it could be applied to conduct that does not involve moral turpitude. The offense prohibited by section 261.5(d) is therefore not a categorical crime involving moral turpitude under the first step of Silva-Trevino. 
  • Applying the second step, the BIA found that there were no documents in the record of conviction establishing that the respondent knew or should have known that his victim was a child.
  • The only remaining step of Silva-Trevino is the third, which provides for consideration of probative evidence beyond the record of conviction. For this step, the BIA analyzed the respondent's testimony before the Immigration Judge. 
Because the BIA generally lacks the authority to make findings of fact in the course of deciding appeals (8 C.F.R. § 1003.1(d)(3)(iv)), it remanded the case for the Immigration Judge to make specific factual findings regarding whether the respondent knew or should have known that his victim was a minor, taking into consideration the respondent’s prior testimony before the Immigration Court and any other relevant evidence.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Matter of Nelson: Continuous residence clock for Cancellation of Removal not reset by alien's departure and reentry - absent waiver of inadmissibility for conviction.

In Matter of Nelson, 25 I&N Dec. 410 (BIA 2011), the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) addressed the question of the “stop-time” rule under section 240A(d)(1) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).  More specifically, the BIA addressed the issue of whether the clock can be reset by an alien’s departure from, and reentry to, the United States after a conviction for a crime that would otherwise stop the accrual of continuous residence for purposes of determining eligibility for cancellation of removal under INA section 240A(a).

Section 240A(d)(1), which sets forth the “stop-time” rule, provides in pertinent part:
Termination of Continuous Period. For purposes of this section, any period of continuous residence or continuous physical presence in the United States shall be deemed to end (A) . . . when the alien is served a notice to appear under section 239(a), or (B) when the alien has committed an offense referred to in section 212(a)(2) that renders the alien inadmissible to the United States under section 212(a)(2) or removable from the United States under section 237(a)(2) or 237(a)(4), whichever is earliest.
The BIA held in this case that continuous residence cannot be restarted absent a waiver of inadmissibility in regard to the conviction. That is, once a foreign national has been convicted of an offense that stops the accrual of the 7-year period of continuous residence required for cancellation of removal, INA section 240A(d)(1) does not permit such residence to restart simply because the alien has departed from, and returned to, the United States.

In this case the respondent, who is from Jamaica, was admitted to the United States as a lawful permanent resident in 1994.  In 1999 he was convicted of possession of marijuana in New York. In 2000 he visited Canada for two days and returned to the United States. In removal proceedings the respondent applied for Cancellation of Removal. The Immigration Judge denied the respondent’s application for cancellation of removal under INA section 240A(a) because he failed to establish the requisite 7 years of continuous residence. Specifically, the Immigration Judge found that the respondent was admitted in 1994 and that under section 240A(d)(1) of the Act, his period of continuous residence ended in 1999 when he committed the drug offense that rendered him removable.

The BIA agreed with the Immigration Judge’s conclusion that under INA section 240A(d)(1), the period of time the respondent was in the United States after his conviction and subsequent reentry cannot be counted toward the accrual of the 7 years of continuous residence required for cancellation of removal, since the clock does not start anew when the alien departs and reenters the United States following the commission of a triggering offense.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Matter of ALYAZJI: 5-year clock for 237(a)(2)(A)(i) removability is not reset each time a foreign national is admitted (within the United States).

Matter of ALYAZJI, 25 I&N Dec. 397 (BIA 2011), identifies when the date of admission begins to run for purposes of section 237(a)(2)(A)(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which in a pertinent part, authorizes the removal of any alien who “is convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude committed within five years . . . after the date of admission,” provided the crime is punishable by a sentence of imprisonment of 1 year or longer.

In Matter of ALYAZJI the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) held that  a conviction for a crime involving moral turpitude triggers removability under section 237(a)(2)(A)(i) only if the crime was committed within 5 years after the date of the admission by virtue of which the alien was then in the United States.  The BIA concluded that the class of aliens “in and admitted to the United States” referred to in the opening sentence of 237(a) of the INA consisted of:
  • Those who entered the United States with the permission of an immigration officer after being inspected at a port of entry; and
  • Those who entered the United States without permission or were paroled, but who subsequently became lawful permanent residents.
Under the BIA's new understanding of the phrase “the date of admission", the 5-year clock is not reset by a new admission from within the United States (through adjustment of status). To ascertain an alien’s deportability under section 237(a)(2)(A)(i), one must first look to the date when the crime was committed. If, on that date, the alien was in the United States pursuant to an admission that occurred within the prior 5-year period, then he is deportable. Conversely, the alien is not deportable if he committed his offense more than 5 years after the date of the admission pursuant to which he was then in the United States.

Matter of ALYAZJI overrules Matter of Shanu, 23 I&N Dec. 754 (BIA 2005), where the BIA held that the term “admission” used in section 237(a)(2)(A)(i) referred to adjustment of status as well as admission at the border; and second, that an alien’s conviction for a crime involving moral turpitude supported removal under that section so long as the crime was committed within 5 years after the date of any admission made by the foreign national.

This case involved Alla Adel Alyazji, a Palestinian citizen who entered the United States on a temporary visa in 2001 and became a lawful permanent resident in 2006.  In January 2008, the respondent was convicted of indecent assault in violation of Pennsylvania law, based on a 2007 offense. As a result of that conviction, the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) initiated removal proceedings. Shortly after removal proceedings commenced, the respondent sought termination on the ground that his indecent assault conviction resulted from an offense committed more than 5 years after his “admission” as a nonimmigrant in August 2001. The Immigration Judge denied the motion based on Matter of Shanu, holding that the respondent is removable because he committed his offense less than 5 years after his “admission” to lawful permanent resident status in April 2006.

The BIA terminated removal proceedings against Mr. Alyazji concluding that when he committed his crime involving moral turpitude in 2007, he was in the United States pursuant to his 2001 admission as a nonimmigrant. Because he committed his offense more than 5 years after that “date of admission,” he was not deportable, even though he was “readmitted” by means of adjustment of status in April 2006.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Naturalization Through Military Service

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provides for an expedited naturalization process for current or recently discharged members of the Army, NavyAir Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and certain components of the National Guard.  

On July 3, 2002 President Bush signed Executive Order 13269 authorizing all noncitizens who have served honorably in the U.S. armed forces on or after Sept. 11, 2001 to immediately file for citizenship. This order also covers veterans of certain designated past wars and conflicts. This was done pursuant to Section 329 of the INA which covers periods of service during periods of hostilities. Section 328 of the INA covers periods of service during peacetime.   Under this section, members of the U.S. armed forces and those already discharged from service may qualify for naturalization if he or she has:

  • Served honorably in the U.S. armed forces for at least one year;
  • Obtained lawful permanent resident status; and
  • Filed an application while still in the service or within six months of separation.
Every military installation has a designated point-of-contact, generally in the personnel division or the Judge Advocate General’s Office, to assist members of the military prepare and file their naturalization application packet. Here's where members of the military can go for additional help:
Members of the military seeking to naturalize must still meet some of the basic requirements.  For example, the applicant must be a person of good moral character, have a basic command of the English language, and must also have a basic knowledge of U.S. History and Government. An applicant for naturalization must also show that he or she is attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States, and will be required to take the Oath of Allegiance. Members of the military however are exempt from other naturalization requirements, including residence and physical presence in the United States.