Here’s the BIA headnote:
“The aggravated felony receipt of stolen property provision in section 101(a)(43)(G) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(43)(G) (2012), does not require that unlawfully received property be obtained by means of common law theft or larceny.”
PANEL: BIA Appellate Immigration Judges Pauley, Guendelsberger, and Kendall Clark
OPINION BY: Judge Pauley
I respectfully dissent.
The Immigration Judge got it right. Under the “plain meaning” of the statute, the respondent is not an aggravated felon. Therefore, the DHS appeal should be dismissed.
Nearly 17 years ago, when I was Chairman of the BIA, I joined the dissenting opinion of Judge Lory D. Rosenberg in a related case, Matter of Bhata, 22 I&N Dec. 1381 (BIA 2000) https://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/eoir/legacy/2014/07/25/3437.pdf which is cited by this panel in Matter of Alday-Dominguez. Indeed, the panel relies on Bhata to support it’s incorrect decision.
However, as Judge Rosenberg pointed out cogently in her dissent:
Accordingly, the modifying parenthetical phrase helps only to elucidate the main clause of the provision. Although the language “theft offense” may require our interpretation, the parenthetical must be read according to its own terms in the context of that subsection of the Act. The phrase “(including receipt of stolen property)” after the word “offense” limits the crimes that are included within the phrase “theft offense.” United States v. Monjaras-Castaneda, supra, at 329 (citing John E. Warriner & Francis Griffith, English Grammar and Composition (Heritage ed., Harcourt Brace Jovanovich 1977)). Specifically, the parenthetical provides that a “theft offense” encompasses the particular offense of receiving stolen property (which, by implication and judicial interpretation, is not a theft).
Matter of Bhata, supra, at 1396 (Rosenberg, AIJ dissenting).
Clearly, as pointed out by Judge Rosenberg, under a “plain reading” of the statutory language, “receipt of stolen property” is a “subgroup” of a theft offense. Consequently, the unlawfully received property must have been obtained by “theft.” The California statute includes things other than property obtained by theft, specifically objects obtained by “extortion.”
Therefore, under the “categorical approach,” the California statute is broader than the aggravated felony offense described in section 101(a)(43)(G) of the Act. Accordingly, the DHS fails to establish that the respondent is removable under that section. Hence, the Immigration Judge correctly terminated removal proceedings, and the DHS appeal should be dismissed.
The majority is just as wrong today as it was in Bhata. Remarkably, a member of this panel, Judge Guendelsberger, along with Judge Gus Villageliu and Judge Neil Miller, joined our dissent in Bhata. Sadly, over the course of his unjustified exile, followed by re-education, rehabilitation, and reappointment to his Appellate Judgeship, my friend and colleague’s views must have changed since the days when he stood up with the rest of us for respondents’ legal rights against the majority of our colleagues who all too often bought the Government’s arguments, even when they were less than persuasive.
Just this week, in a unanimous decision written by Justice Clarence Thomas, the Supreme Court reinforced the “plain meaning” analysis in applying the categorical approach to an aggravated felony removal provision involving “sexual abuse of a minor.” Esquivel-Quintana v. Sessions, ___ U.S. ___ (2017). Yet, the panel seems “tone-deaf” to the very clear message from Justice Thomas and his colleagues about the impropriety of manipulating clear statutory language to achieve a finding of removal.
In conclusion, the respondent has not been convicted an of an aggravated felony under section 101(a)(43)(G) of the Act by virtue of his conviction for receiving stolen property under the California Penal Code. Consequently, the Immigration Judge reached the correct result, and the DHS appeal should be dismissed.
Therefore, I respectfully dissent from the panel’s decision to sustain the DHS appeal.
Paul Wickham Schmidt
Former BIA Chairman, Appellate Immigration Judge, & United States Immigration Judge (Retired)
Entered: June 2, 2017