DOUBLE WHAMMY: BIA “BRAND X’s” Ninth Circuit On Material Misrepresentation & Extrajudicial Killings — Effectively Overrules Article III’s Interpretation! — Matter of D-R-, 27 I&N Dec. 105 ( BIA 2017)!

https://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/pages/attachments/2017/09/14/3902_0.pdf

PANEL:  BIA Appellate Immigration Judges Grant, Malphrus, Mullane

OPINION BY: Judge Malphrus

HEADNOTES:

“(1) A misrepresentation is material under section 212(a)(6)(C)(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(6)(C)(i) (2012), when it tends to shut off a line of inquiry that is relevant to the alien’s admissibility and that would predictably have disclosed other facts relevant to his eligibility for a visa, other documentation, or admission to the United States. Forbes v. INS, 48 F.3d 439 (9th Cir. 1995), not followed.

(2) In determining whether an alien assisted or otherwise participated in extrajudicial killing, an adjudicator should consider (1) the nexus between the alien’s role, acts, or inaction and the extrajudicial killing and (2) his scienter, meaning his prior or contemporaneous knowledge of the killing. Miranda Alvarado v. Gonzales, 449 F.3d 915 (9th Cir. 2006), not followed.”

***************************

Chief Justice John Marshall must be turning over in his grave at how with Chevron and Brand X the Supremes have turned the judicial authority of the United States over to administrative judges within the Executive Branch. Why have an Article III Judiciary at all if it is too timid, afraid, or unqualified to rule on questions of law?

PWS

09-18-17

 

 

 

BREAKING: SUPREMES BODY SLAM DOJ IN NATZ CASE — MISREPRESENTATION MUST BE “MATERIAL” — Maslenjak v. United States — Total Justices Voting For DOJ Position = 0 (ZERO)!

Here’s the Court’s Syllabus (NOT part of the decision);

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES

Syllabus

MASLENJAK v. UNITED STATES CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR

THE SIXTH CIRCUIT

No. 16–309. Argued April 26, 2017—Decided June 22, 2017

Petitioner Divna Maslenjak is an ethnic Serb who resided in Bosnia during the 1990’s, when a civil war divided the new country. In 1998, she and her family sought refugee status in the United States. In- terviewed under oath, Maslenjak explained that the family feared persecution from both sides of the national rift: Muslims would mis- treat them because of their ethnicity, and Serbs would abuse them because Maslenjak’s husband had evaded service in the Bosnian Serb Army by absconding to Serbia. Persuaded of the Maslenjaks’ plight, American officials granted them refugee status. Years later, Maslenjak applied for U. S. citizenship. In the application process, she swore that she had never given false information to a government of- ficial while applying for an immigration benefit or lied to an official to gain entry into the United States. She was naturalized as a U. S. cit- izen. But it soon emerged that her professions of honesty were false: Maslenjak had known all along that her husband spent the war years not secreted in Serbia, but serving as an officer in the Bosnian Serb Army.

The Government charged Maslenjak with knowingly “procur[ing], contrary to law, [her] naturalization,” in violation of 18 U. S. C. §1425(a). According to the Government’s theory, Maslenjak violated §1425(a) because, in the course of procuring her naturalization, she broke another law: 18 U. S. C. §1015(a), which prohibits knowingly making a false statement under oath in a naturalization proceeding. The District Court instructed the jury that, to secure a conviction un- der §1425(a), the Government need not prove that Maslenjak’s false statements were material to, or influenced, the decision to approve her citizenship application. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the convic- tion, holding that if Maslenjak made false statements violating

2 MASLENJAK v. UNITED STATES Syllabus

§1015(a) and procured naturalization, then she also violated §1425(a).

Held:
1. The text of §1425(a) makes clear that, to secure a conviction, the

Government must establish that the defendant’s illegal act played a role in her acquisition of citizenship. To “procure . . . naturalization” means to obtain it. And the adverbial phrase “contrary to law” speci- fies how a person must procure naturalization so as to run afoul of the statute: illegally. Thus, someone “procure[s], contrary to law, naturalization” when she obtains citizenship illegally. As ordinary usage demonstrates, the most natural understanding of that phrase is that the illegal act must have somehow contributed to the obtain- ing of citizenship. To get citizenship unlawfully is to get it through an unlawful means—and that is just to say that an illegality played some role in its acquisition.

The Government’s contrary view—that §1425(a) requires only a vi- olation in the course of procuring naturalization—falters on the way language naturally works. Suppose that an applicant for citizenship fills out the paperwork in a government office with a knife tucked away in her handbag. She has violated the law against possessing a weapon in a federal building, and she has done so in the course of procuring citizenship, but nobody would say she has “procure[d]” her citizenship “contrary to law.” That is because the violation of law and the acquisition of citizenship in that example are merely coincidental: The one has no causal relation to the other. Although the Govern- ment attempts to define such examples out of the statute, that effort falls short for multiple reasons. Most important, the Government’s attempted carve-out does nothing to alter the linguistic understand- ing that gives force to the examples the Government would exclude. Under ordinary rules of language usage, §1425(a) demands a causal or means-end connection between a legal violation and naturaliza- tion.

The broader statutory context reinforces the point, because the Government’s reading would create a profound mismatch between the requirements for naturalization and those for denaturalization: Some legal violations that do not justify denying citizenship would nonetheless justify revoking it later. For example, lies told out of “embarrassment, fear, or a desire for privacy” (rather than “for the purpose of obtaining [immigration] benefits”) are not generally dis- qualifying under the statutory requirement of “good moral charac- ter.” Kungys v. United States, 485 U. S. 759, 780; 8 U. S. C. §1101(f)(6). But under the Government’s reading of §1425(a), any lie told in the naturalization process would provide a basis for rescinding citizenship. The Government could thus take away on one day what

Cite as: 582 U. S. ____ (2017) 3

Syllabus

it was required to give the day before. And by so unmooring the rev- ocation of citizenship from its award, the Government opens the door to a world of disquieting consequences—which this Court would need far stronger textual support to believe Congress intended. The stat- ute Congress passed, most naturally read, strips a person of citizenship not when she committed any illegal act during the naturaliza- tion process, but only when that act played some role in her naturalization. Pp. 4–9.

2. When the underlying illegality alleged in a §1425(a) prosecution is a false statement to government officials, a jury must decide whether the false statement so altered the naturalization process as to have influenced an award of citizenship. Because the entire naturalization process is set up to provide little room for subjective pref- erences or personal whims, that inquiry is properly framed in objec- tive terms: To decide whether a defendant acquired citizenship by means of a lie, a jury must evaluate how knowledge of the real facts would have affected a reasonable government official properly applying naturalization law.

If the facts the defendant misrepresented are themselves legally disqualifying for citizenship, the jury can make quick work of that inquiry. In such a case, the defendant’s lie must have played a role in her naturalization. But that is not the only time a jury can find that a defendant’s lies had the requisite bearing on a naturalization decision, because lies can also throw investigators off a trail leading to disqualifying facts. When relying on such an investigation-based theory, the Government must make a two-part showing. Initially, the Government must prove that the misrepresented fact was suffi- ciently relevant to a naturalization criterion that it would have prompted reasonable officials, “seeking only evidence concerning citizenship qualifications,” to undertake further investigation. Kungys, 485 U. S., at 774, n. 9. If that much is true, the inquiry turns to the prospect that such an investigation would have borne disqualifying fruit. The Government need not show definitively that its investiga- tion would have unearthed a disqualifying fact. It need only estab- lish that the investigation “would predictably have disclosed” some legal disqualification. Id., at 774. If that is so, the defendant’s mis- representation contributed to the citizenship award in the way §1425(a) requires. This demanding but still practicable causal standard reflects the real-world attributes of cases premised on what an unhindered investigation would have found.

When the Government can make its two-part showing, the defend- ant may overcome it by establishing that she was qualified for citizenship (even though she misrepresented facts that suggested the opposite). Thus, whatever the Government shows with respect to a

4

MASLENJAK v. UNITED STATES Syllabus

thwarted investigation, qualification for citizenship is a complete defense to a prosecution under §1425(a). Pp. 10–15.

3. Measured against this analysis, the jury instructions in this case were in error. The jury needed to find more than an unlawful false statement. However, it was not asked to—and so did not—make any of the necessary determinations. The Government’s assertion that any instructional error was harmless is left for resolution on remand. Pp. 15–16.

821 F. 3d 675, vacated and remanded.

KAGAN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and KENNEDY, GINSBURG, BREYER, and SOTOMAYOR, JJ., joined. GORSUCH, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, in which THOMAS, J., joined. ALITO, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment.

************************************************

Interestingly, Justice Gorsuch, in his first immigration-related decision, wrote a separate concurring opinion agreeing with the majority that a misrepresentation must be “material” but indicating that he would not have gone on to attempt to articulate a test for “materiality.”

Doubt that the Government’s max-enforcement effort in the Federal Courts is out of touch with reality and the law? Try this: With a supposedly conservative majority Supreme Court, the Gov has lost two recent cases this one and Esquivel-Quintana v. Sessions(http://immigrationcourtside.com/2017/05/31/led-by-justice-thomas-unanimous-supremes-reject-usgs-attempt-to-deport-mexican-man-for-consensual-sex-with-a-minor-strict-interpretation-carries-the-day/) by a total vote of 17-0. Yes, that’s right, 17-0! Not one Justice has sided with any of the nonsense that the Solicitor General has advanced on behalf of Government overreach on immigration enforcement. Justice Thomas even wrote the unanimous opinion in Esquivel (Justice Gorsuch sat that one out).

And, remember that these were positions developed and defended by the DOJ under the Obama Administration.

PWS

06-22-17

SUPREMES: “Chiefie” Incredulous At DOJ Position in Natz Case!

http://m.dailykos.com/stories/2017/4/27/1656715/–Oh-come-on-Supreme-Court-justices-incredulous-at-Justice-Department-immigration-argument?detail=emaildkre&link_id=1&can_id=aaabbf957f39adda3c39dd02432b2ad6&source=email-oh-come-on-supreme-court-justices-incredulous-at-justice-department-immigration-argument-2&email_referrer=oh-come-on-supreme-court-justices-incredulous-at-justice-department-immigration-argument-2___205999&email_subject=north-carolina-woman-voted-illegally-for-trump-but-wont-be-charged-for-compassionate-reasons

Laura Clawson writes at the Daily Kos:

“It, uh, doesn’t sound like the Trump-Sessions Justice Department is going to prevail in its argument to the U.S. Supreme Court that citizenship can be revoked over any misstatement or failure to disclose at all, however minor, that a person included (or didn’t include) on their citizenship application. Yes, Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg were all vocally skeptical. But there was also this, from Chief Justice John Roberts:

“Some time ago, outside the statute of limitations, I drove 60 miles an hour in a 55-mile-an-hour zone,” the chief justice said, adding that he had not been caught.

The form that people seeking American citizenship must complete, he added, asks whether the applicant had ever committed a criminal offense, however minor, even if there was no arrest.

“If I answer that question no, 20 years after I was naturalized as a citizen, you can knock on my door and say, ‘Guess what, you’re not an American citizen after all’?” Chief Justice Roberts asked.

Robert A. Parker, a Justice Department lawyer, said the offense had to be disclosed. Chief Justice Roberts seemed shocked. “Oh, come on,” he said.

It sounds an awful lot like the Trump regime is looking for the right to revoke any naturalized person’s citizenship at any time, while creating an enormous new hoop for people seeking citizenship to jump through. Can you remember every single thing you’ve ever done?

Divna Maslenjak, the woman whose case prompted this exchange, could still face legal problems, since she had claimed that her husband had avoided military conscription in Bosnia when really he served in a unit that committed war crimes. But whatever the specific result for Maslenjak, it doesn’t seem likely that the Trump regime is going to get the far-ranging power it was effectively seeking:

Roberts added that it might not be a constitutional problem, but “it is certainly a problem of prosecutorial abuse.” Given the wide range of questions on the naturalization form, he observed,  the government’s position would mean that government officials would have “the opportunity to denaturalize anyone they want, because everybody is going to have a situation where they didn’t put in something like that.” “And then the government can decide,” Roberts warned, “we are going to denaturalize you for reasons other than what might appear on your naturalization form, or we’re not.” For Roberts, giving that “extraordinary power, which essentially is unlimited power,” to the government would be “troublesome.”

Welcome to the Donald Trump presidency, Mr. Chief Justice.”

****************************************

For many years (at least as long as I’ve been in DC — since 1973) the DOJ, and in particular the Solicitor General’s Office, has occupied a position of unusual respect and credibility with the Supremes. Indeed, the Solicitor General is sometimes referred to as the “10th Justice” because the Supremes often defer to his or her judgment on whether a case merits certiorari.

But, with Jeff “Gonzo Apocalypto” Sessions at the helm, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the DOJ lose its vaunted reputation and be treated with the same degree of skepticism that other litigants face from the Supremes.

To be fair, however, the DOJ’s “boneheaded” position in Maslenjak originated in the Obama Administration which also, thanks in no small way to its tone deaf handling of many immigration cases (particularly those involving crimes) also “wore out its welcome,” so to speak, with the Supremes.

Perhaps, it’s just the general arrogance with which the Executive Branch and the DOJ have functioned over the last several Administrations of both parties. And, Congress, largely as a result of the GOP and its Tea Party wing, turning into “Bakuninists”– promoting anarchy and achieving almost nothing of value since the enactment of Obamacare, has not helped stem the tide of Executive overreach.

PWS

04-29-17

 

 

Supremes Engage On Naturalization Issue!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/courts_law/supreme-court-fears-giving-government-too-much-power-to-revoke-naturalization/2017/04/26/13b7814e-2aac-11e7-be51-b3fc6ff7faee_story.html?utm_term=.6a9daea75352

Robert Barnes writes in the Washington Post:

“Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said Wednesday he had grave worries about “prosecutorial abuse” if even a minor lie in the application process means the government can later strip a naturalized immigrant of her citizenship.

As the issues of immigration and deportation take center stage under the Trump administration, Roberts and other Supreme Court justices seemed hesitant to give the government unfettered power to remove naturalized citizens from the country.

The case involved a Bosnian native, Divna Maslenjak, who was criminally prosecuted for lying on her application about her husband’s military service. She was deported by the Obama administration, which held the broad view that any misrepresentation — whether relevant or not — was enough to give the government the right to consider revocation.

“It is troublesome to give that extraordinary power, which, essentially, is unlimited power, at least in most cases, to the government,” Roberts said. Because it would be easy in almost all cases to find some falsehood, the chief justice said, “the government will have the opportunity to denaturalize anyone they want.”

Roberts, who regularly warns about the discretionary power of prosecutors, and Justice Anthony M. Kennedy added a moment of drama to a lively hearing that was the Supreme Court’s last scheduled oral argument of the term.

They were not persuaded by Justice Department lawyer Robert A. Parker’s assertion that other safeguards are built into the system and that government lawyers had little reason to search through the millions of files of naturalized citizens to find trivial reasons to prosecute. Even denaturalization, Parker said, only returns a person to the status of lawful permanent resident and allows reapplication.

. . . .

Some justices noted that the statute does not specifically require that. “It seems like, linguistically, we have to do some somersaults to get where you want to go,” said Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, who testified during his recent confirmation hearings about sticking closely to the text of statutes.

And Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said Maslenjak’s misrepresentations appeared directly relevant to her application. She lied about what her husband was doing in Bosnia, Ginsburg said. “Under what circumstances would that be immaterial?”

. . . .

The case is Maslenjak v. United States.”

*************************************

PWS

04-26-17