A recent ruling by an immigration court will make it harder for some immigrants to beat deportation orders.
The issue decided last week by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) revolved around whether the phrase “admitted in any status” includes people who entered the country illegally. The court ruled that it does not.
“The respondent’s view would essentially relieve aliens of the statutory burden of establishing that he or she has satisfied all the eligibility requirements for cancellation of removal under” the statute, board member Blair O’Connor wrote for the majority. “It is unlikely that Congress would have intended such a result.”
The ruling could make it harder for immigrants to seek discretionary orders from immigration judges to cancel deportation orders. Statistics from the Department of Homeland Security indicate that judges have granted such requests a few thousand times annually over the past five years.
Advocates of stricter immigration enforcement welcomed the ruling. The Immigration Reform Law Institute, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the government, characterized the decisions as a dose of common sense.
“The BIA closed an important loophole that would have permitted illegal aliens to twist the language of the law even more than usual to give themselves benefits to which they are plainly not entitled,” the group’s executive director, Dale Wilcox, said in a statement.
The impact is somewhat limited, however, and does not apply to immigrants seeking “cancellation of removal” orders in the 5th and 9th U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal, which have ruled the other way. Those appellate courts cover Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi, along with eight Western states.
The ruling handed down last week involved Rosalina Castillo Angulo, a Mexican immigrant ordered deported in 2010 following her conviction for attempting to smuggle an immigrant illegally into the United States.
To be eligible for such consideration, a petitioner has to be a legal immigrant who has continuously lived in the United States for seven years.
Angulo became a lawful permanent resident in April 2003 — three months shy of seven years by the time the judge ordered her deported. But she claimed to have come to the country in 1991 and that she presented herself for inspection in 1998 at a port of entry. She claims that a customs official waved her through.
The BIA never before has addressed whether a “wave through” entry constitutes an “admission in any status.”
The respondent’s proposed interpretation of [the statute] opens the door for all lawful permanent resident aliens who illegally cross the border to claim, years after the fact, that they were ‘waved through’ a port of entry and are therefore eligible for cancellation of removal based on a claim that is impossible for the DHS to refute.
A ruling the other way, Wilcox argued, would have provided a perverse incentive for immigrants to lie about how they entered — with little or no way for the government to prove otherwise.
Andrew “Art” Arthur, a former immigration judge who now serves as a senior fellow in law and policy at the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), said the ruling is common sense.
“If you enter illegally, you haven’t been admitted,” he told LifeZette.