Category Archives: Particularly Serious Crime

Matter of G-G-S

The Board of Immigration Appeals held here that a respondent’s mental health at the time of committing a crime is not a factor in determining whether a conviction is for a particularly serious crime that bars withholding of removal.

In this case, the respondent was convicted of California Penal Code section 245(a)(1) (2004 version), assault with a deadly weapon, and received a two-year sentence to prison.  He has a history of chronic paranoid schizophrenia, which resulted in a finding that he was mentally incompetent during the removal proceedings.  The fact of the conviction, however, indicates he was not found not guilty by reason of insanity during the criminal proceedings.

The Board held that the respondent’s mental health circumstances at the time of an offense may not be considered in determining whether the crime is a particularly serious crime that bars withholding of removal.   It reached this conclusion despite acknowledging the well-established rule that it “evaluate[s] the nature of the conviction, the type of sentence imposed, and the circumstances and underlying facts.”  The Board’s decision makes clear that the “circumstances and underlying facts” concern only those that indicate whether the respondent is a “danger to the community.”  In other words, a crime by a mentally ill person can indicate dangerousness to the community just the same as a crime by a person who is not mentally ill.

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Antipas Johnlang Konou v. Holder

In a matter of first impression in this circuit, the Ninth Circuit found that the BIA could consider a sentence enhancement in determining whether a non-aggravated felony conviction was nonetheless a particularly serious crime that would bar withholding of removal.  Konou had argued it could not because Ninth Circuit precedent holds a sentencing enhancement cannot be considered when determining if a conviction is an aggravated felony.  The court pointed out that a conviction does not need to meet the aggravated felony definition in order to be deemed particularly serious.  The particularly serious crime determination is a discretionary case-by-case determination.

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Matter of V-X-

The Board first held that an immigration judge must first determine whether to terminate an asylee’s asylum status before adjudicating charges of inadmissibility or deportability. The Board remanded because the immigration judge did not do that here. Before remanding, however, the Board addressed whether he was properly charged with inadmissibility and issues regarding V-X-‘s guilty plea to charges that he delivered marijuana, conspired to deliver marijuana, and knowingly kept a vehicle for the purpose of keeping or selling controlled substances in violation of sections 333.7401(2)(d)(iii), 750.157a, and 333.7405(1)(d) of the Michigan Compiled Laws, respectively.

The Board rejected V-X-‘s argument that as a person granted asylum he is not subject to charges of inadmissibility under section 212 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), but rather must be charged with deportability under section 237. He had entered the U.S. on parole and obtained asylum in the U.S. The Board held that neither parole nor grant of asylum amount to an admission to the United States, which it has held is limited to inspection and admission at a port of entry or adjustment to permanent resident status. Since he was not “admitted to” the U.S., the Board held the grounds of inadmissibility applied.

The Board next rejected V-X-‘s argument that being designated a “youthful trainee” under section 762.11 of the Michigan Compiled Laws was not a conviction and thus did not make him inadmissible for conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude or a controlled substance offense. It held the youthful trainee designation did not correspond to a civil determination of juvenile delinquency under the Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act (FJDA), so the guilty plea amounted to a conviction under the INA. Unfortunately for a published decision like this one, though, the Board did not explain why the youthful trainee designation did not correspond to the FJDA. It just cited Uritsky v. Gonzales, 399 F.3d 728, 734–35 (6th Cir. 2005). The explanation would not have taken to long; it is simply this: a youthful trainee has a conviction until it is vacated after a period of good behavior and rehabilitation, while a juvenile delinquent under the FJDA never has a criminal conviction because it is a civil status finding.

The Board also noted the potential applicability of the recent Supreme Court decision in Moncrieffe to the immigration judge’s finding that V-X- was ineligible for asylum or withholding of removal for conviction of an aggravated felony and particularly serious crime. Specifically, V-X-‘s conviction would not be an aggravated felony if the statutes he was convicted of violating potentially could involve gratuitous distribution of a small amount of marijuana.

Interestingly, the Board also noted that Moncrieffe should be considered in assessing whether V-X- would be eligible for adjustment of status as an asylee under INA section 209(b) with a section 209(c) waiver of inadmissibility. An asylee is not eligible to adjust if he is inadmissible under section 212(a)(2)(C) for reason to believe he has been involved in drug trafficking, which does not require a conviction. Thus, the Board is indicating that gratuitous distribution of a small amount of marijuana may not trigger 212(a)(2)(C) inadmissibility.

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Matter of M-H-

This case clarifies the law regarding the particularly serious crime (PSC) bar to asylum and withholding of removal for cases arising in the jurisdiction of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

In Alaka v. Attorney General, 456 F.3d 88 (3d Cir. 2006), the Third Circuit held that an offense must be an aggravated felony to be a PSC for purposes of withholding of removal. However, the Board reached the opposite conclusion the following year in Matter of N-A-M-, 24 I&N Dec. 336 (BIA 2007). Four federal circuit courts, including the Ninth, have deferred to N-A-M- after finding ambiguity in the statutory language of the PSC-bar to withholding.

In this case, the Board considered the question whether it would continue to follow Alaka in cases arising within the Third Circuit. The answer is no: the Board concluded that because the Third Circuit did not hold in Alaka that the statutory language in section 241(b)(3)(B) is ambiguous, the circuit court is required to defer to the Board’s interpretation of the statute in N-A-M-. Thus, in all circuits, an individual need not have been convicted of an aggravated felony to be subject to the PSC-bars for asylum and withholding of removal.

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Khalil-Salim Arbid v. Holder

The Ninth Circuit held that the decision as to whether a conviction is a “particularly serious crime” to bar asylum and withholding of removal is an inherently discretionary decision. Thus, the court will review a finding by the Board of Immigration Appeals that an offense is a particularly serious crime for abuse of discretion. The court found no abuse of discretion here where the immigration judge and Board reviewed the Statement of Facts from the guilty plea, took testimony from the applicant, and decided that a fraud conspiracy that resulted in a loss to the victims of nearly $2 million amounted to a particularly serious crime.

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