Alphonsus v. Holder

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Immigration
  • Date Filed: 01-18-2013
  • Case #: 10-73298
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Berzon for the Court; Circuit Judge Pregerson; Partial Concurrence and Partial Dissent by Circuit Judge Graber
  • Full Text Opinion

The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) must explain its basis for using the “orderly pursuit of justice” and “meaningful risk of harm” rationales in determining that an individual committed a particularly serious crime before the BIA’s determination can be evaluated for its legal adequacy.

Anthony Aloysius Alphonsus (Alphonsus), a lawful permanent resident, was convicted of resisting arrest and theft. The Department of Homeland Security charged Alphonsus with removability because he was an alien with convictions of “crimes of moral turpitude after admission” and an aggravated felony. Alphonsus applied for a withholding of removal. An immigration judge (IJ) found Alphonsus ineligible, because his conviction for resisting arrest constituted a “particularly serious crime.” Alphonsus appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), which found that resisting arrest was a particularly serious crime against a police officer and “the orderly pursuit of justice in the United States.’” The BIA also found that Alphonsus’s attempt to resist arrest “created a meaningful risk of harm to others and to the officer.” Alphonsus challenged the BIA’s determinations, arguing that a “particularly serious crime is unconstitutionally vague” and “the BIA’s application of the particularly serious crime bar [was] inadequately explained.” The Ninth Circuit noted that the statutory text “does cover an ascertainable core set of convictions” for particularly serious crimes and the BIA’s rulings have provided examples. Thus, a particularly serious crime was not unconstitutionally vague. The Court could not understand the “rationale of [the BIA’s] particularly serious crime determination.” Specifically, the BIA needed to address how “resisting arrest might constitute a particularly serious crime.” The BIA must also explain its “meaningful risk of harm” rationale. The Court could not find any indication that Alphonsus intended to harm the arresting officer or the public. The Court held that without the BIA’s explanation of how the “orderly pursuit of justice” and “meaningful risk of harm” rationales apply to Alphonsus’s situation, the Court could not evaluate the legal validity of the BIA’s decision. GRANTED in part. DENIED in part. REMANDED.

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