Friday, March 5, 2010

Gonzalez-Balderas v. Holder (7th Circuit March 5, 2010)

On Petition to Review an Order of the BIA, the Seventh Circuit affirmed a denial of a Mexican National's request to reapply for admission retroactive to the date of her second reentry. The petitioner initially entered the U.S. illegally by using someone else's documentation and removed, which made her ineligible to seek readmission for five years. She illegally reentered a second time, which meant that she would be prevented from reapplying for permission to enter for ten years. Thus, in affirming the denial, the court held that application for retroactive relief cannot be granted when the effect would be to lift the ten-year bar.

Gonzalez-Balderas v. Holder, No. 09-1890

The petitioner, a Mexican citizen, entered the United States illegally by the use of someone else’s documentation and was promptly removed. 8 U.S.C. § 1225(b)(1)(A)(i). Her removal made her ineligible to seek readmission to the United States for five years unless she obtained permission to reapply for permission earlier. §§ 1182(a)(9)(A)(i), (iii).

Rather than either wait or ask for permission to reapply, she snuck back into the United States a month later. This meant that she was forbidden to reapply for permission to enter for ten years. § 1182(a)(9)(C)(i)(II)(ii). Still, here she was, undetected, and the following year her husband, a lawful permanent resident of the United States (since then he has become a citizen), whom she had married shortly after her second illegal entry, filed a visa petition on her behalf. The petition was granted, and later she filed an application to adjust her status, on the basis of her husband’s status, to that of a lawful permanent resident. § 1255(i)(1).

Upon discovering that she had reentered the country illegally after being removed, the Department of Homeland Security, though it could have removed her summarily, § 1231(a)(5), instead merely denied her application for adjustment of status and scheduled a new removal hearing. At that hearing which she asked the immigration judge to permit her to reapply for ad- mission retroactive to the date of her reentry. Her authority was 8 C.F.R. § 212.2(i)(2), which states that an adjustment of status can be ordered retroactively.

The immigration judge, seconded by the Board of Immigration Appeals, ruled on the authority of In re Torres-Garcia, 23 I. & N. Dec. 866 (BIA 2006), that an application for retroactive relief (which the Board calls “nunc pro tunc”—“now for then”—relief, a term that properly refers, rather, to correcting a mistake, Central Laborers’ Pension, Welfare & Annuity Funds v. Griffee, 198 F.3d 642, 644 (7th Cir. 1999); King v. Ionization Int’l, Inc., 825 F.2d 1180, 1188 (7th Cir. 1987)) cannot be granted when the effect would be to lift the ten-year bar.

Retroactive relief is a tool long employed by the immigration authorities, based on what they believe to be implied statutory authority to provide relief from the harsh provisions of the immigration laws in sympathetic cases. See, e.g., Patel v. Gonzales, 432 F.3d 685, 693 (6th Cir. 2005); Edwards v. INS, 393 F.3d 299, 308-09 (2d Cir. 2004). This case conceivably is one. The petitioner is 51 years old and has three children, one a U.S. citizen and the others lawful permanent residents, and apart from her illegal entries she has been law-abiding. But the Board ruled that the regulation cannot contravene the statute that bars a removed alien from reapplying for admission for ten years.

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