PRECEDENT: BIA Gives Guidance On Admin Closing & Avetisyan — PD Should Not Be A Factor Unless Parties Agree — Matter of W-Y-U-, 27 I&N Dec. 17 (BIA 2017)

BIA Headnotes:

“(1) The primary consideration for an Immigration Judge in evaluating whether to administratively close or recalendar proceedings is whether the party opposing administrative closure has provided a persuasive reason for the case to proceed and be resolved on the merits. Matter of Avetisyan, 25 I&N Dec. 688 (BIA 2012), clarified.

(2) In considering administrative closure, an Immigration Judge cannot review whether an alien falls within the enforcement priorities of the Department of Homeland Security, which has exclusive jurisdiction over matters of prosecutorial discretion.”

Panel: Appellate Immigration Judges Malphrus, Mullane, & Creppy

Opinion by Judge Malphrus.


While at first blush it might appear that the unrepresented respondent “won” this appeal, the victory is likely to be phyrric at best.

There was a time (now apparently gone) when the DHS gave individual Assistant Chief Counsel broader authority to offer prosecutorial discretion (“PD”) in cases that were not enforcement priorities.

In Arlington, where I was an Immigration Judge, the Assistant Chief Counsel were very reasonable and fair, and usually agreed to “short docket” hearings on well-documented asylum cases that fell squarely within the BIA precedents. Consequently, when they offered “PD” in an asylum case it usually was a “signal” that they saw the equities in the case, but also had difficulties with the asylum application that would require them to fully litigate the case and probably appeal a grant. Since the Assistant Chief Counsel in Arlington did not normally contest asylum cases unless there were significant proof or legal issues involved, their views had great credibility with both the private bar and with me.

Generally, in such situations I “suggested” that counsel accept the proffer of PD and continue to work with the Assistant Chief Counsel on overcoming her or his problem with the asylum case. If the parties eventually were able to reach agreement that the case could be heard on the  “short docket” (30 minutes or less), I would be happy to restore the case to the docket upon joint motion. Usually, counsel got my “message.”

The few cases that went forward after “PD” had been turned down by counsel usually proved to be “losers” for the respondent, either before me or before the BIA. In a couple of cases, where I could see the respondent’s case “going south in a hurry,” I simply stopped the hearing and granted the DHS motion for Administrative Closing for PD over the respondent’s objection. I don’t think anyone ever appealed. But, under Matter of W-Y-U-, I probably could not have done that.

I suspect that when this unrepresented respondent eventually gets his wish and has a merits asylum hearing, he will lose. At that point, the DHS, even prior to the Trump Administration, would be unlikely to exercise PD, even if there were outstanding equities.

Sometimes in litigation you get what you ask for, and later wish you hadn’t asked.