Monday, March 29, 2010

9th Cir. overturns Matter of Lettman: felony convictions before November 18, 1988 are not Aggravated Felonies

"We conclude that he may not be removed, because (1) the 1988 law that made aliens deportable for aggravated felony convictions did not apply to convictions prior to November 18, 1988; and (2) neither Congress’s overhaul of the grounds for deportation in 1990 nor its rewrite of the definition of aggravated felony in 1996 erased that temporal limitation."

Ledezma-Galicia entered the United States in 1979 and became a lawful permanent resident on February 12, 1985. In June 1987, Ledezma-Galicia molested a ten-year-old girl. He was subsequently charged with sodomy in the first degree, in violation of Or. Rev. Stat. § 163.405, and rape in the first degree, in violation of Or. Rev. Stat. § 163.375. In exchange for dismissal of the rape charge, Ledezma-Galicia pleaded guilty to the sodomy count and admitted in his guilty plea that he had sexual intercourse with a minor.  On September 16, 1988, he was sentenced to eight months in custody. 

In April of 2003, the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement charged Ledezma-Galicia with removability because of his 1988 conviction. See Ledezma-Galicia v. Unless otherwise stated, all references to the United States Code are to the 2000 edition. Ledezma-Galicia v. Holder 4995 Crawford, 294 F. Supp. 2d 1191, 1193 (D. Or. 2003) (summarizing the factual background). Under current law, sexual abuse of a minor is an aggravated felony, 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(43)(A), and a conviction for an aggravated felony renders an alien removable,2 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii).  But that was not the case when Ledezma-Galicia was convicted. See 8 U.S.C. § 1251(a) (1982) (listing grounds for deportation). To determine whether Ledezma-Galicia can now be deported because of his 1988 conviction requires a journey through the last twenty years of immigration law reform.

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