On September 29, the NMM Immigration Practice Group won an appeal with the Board of Immigration Appeals – the nation’s highest immigration court – that will allow their client, a national from Guyana who had been ordered deported from the United States after living in this country lawfully for more than 35 years, to reapply for permanent residence in the U.S.
The appellant entered the United States as a lawful permanent resident at the age of 9 in 1977. He has lived in the United States as a lawful resident for the last 40 years. His mother is a United States citizen, and he has two U.S. citizen children.
In 1991, the appellant was convicted in California of grand theft. In 2011, the Department of Homeland Security summoned him into immigration court, charging him as deportable from the United States. Acknowledging that his conviction made him deportable from the country, the appellant attempted to apply for “cancellation of removal,” a form of discretionary relief from deportation in which an immigration judge evaluates whether the applicant deserves to remain in the United States. First, the immigration judge looks at whether an applicant is statutorily barred from cancellation of removal, such as because of a conviction for a serious crime, known as an “aggravated felony.” Once the applicant is found statutorily eligible, the immigration judge looks at a variety of factors – including criminal records, work and education history, contributions in the community, family, and time spent in the United States – to determine whether the applicant deserves relief.
In 2016, the Philadelphia Immigration Judge ruled that our client was ineligible for cancellation due to his prior conviction in California for grand theft, and ordered him to be removed from the United States. William Menard, an Associate in the NMM Immigration Practice Group, appealed this ruling. Citing the Ninth Circuit’s 2015 decision in Lopez-Valencia v. Lynch, he argued that because California’s theft statute is so broad and encompasses such a wide range of behavior, from the highly reprehensible to the mostly innocuous, a conviction under that statute cannot automatically constitute an aggravated felony.
The Board of Immigration Appeals ultimately agreed with our argument and found that our client was not an aggravated felon. The case was then remanded back to the Immigration Judge, before whom Menard will argue that our client deserves cancellation of removal as a matter of discretion.