Tyson v. Holder

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Immigration
  • Date Filed: 01-27-2012
  • Case #: 08-70219
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Senior District Judge Brewster for the Court; Circuit Judges McKeown and M.D. Smith
  • Full Text Opinion

The repeal of § 212(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act imposes an impermissible retroactive effect on a lawful permanent resident, who was “convicted pursuant to a stipulated facts agreement based on a reasonable expectation that it would not negatively affect her immigration status.”

In 1980, Jacqueline Tyson, a native of Australia and lawful permanent resident of the United States, was charged with importation and possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute after returning to the U.S. from Thailand. Tyson entered into a stipulation with the government and was convicted on the importation count. At this time, the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”) denied admission to the U.S. to any alien convicted of violating “any law . . . relating to the illicit possession of or traffic in narcotic drugs.” However, § 212(c) of the INA allowed a permanent resident alien with at least seven years of residence to apply for discretionary relief from deportation, despite such a conviction. Congress repealed the INA as to aliens with certain criminal convictions in 1996. In 2005, after departing from the U.S., the Department of Homeland Security denied Tyson’s request to re-enter based on her 1980 conviction. The Immigration Judge denied Tyson’s request for waiver under § 212(c), and the Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed. The Ninth Circuit reversed, relying on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in INS v. St. Cyr, which held that the repeal of the INA does not apply retroactively to “aliens who, in reliance on the possibility of § 212(c) relief, pleaded guilty to aggravated felonies.” The Court first found that “Congress did not clearly prescribe the retroactive effect of the repeal of § 212(c).” Second, the Court concluded that a stipulated facts trial is substantially similar to a guilty plea. Central to this conclusion was the finding that Tyson, in reliance on the possibility of § 212(c) relief, waived many of her constitutional rights and granted the government several “tangible benefits,” such as being assured a conviction and avoiding the time and expense of trial. PETITION GRANTED.

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