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Ildefonso-Candelario v. United States

United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit

August 3, 2017

ROMAN ILDEFONSO-CANDELARIO, Petitioner
v.
ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent

          Argued June 12, 2017

         On Petition for Review of an Order of the United States Department of Justice Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA 1:A208-443-783) Immigration Judge: Hon. Walter A. Durling

          Daniel B. Conklin [ARGUED] The Shagin Law Group Counsel for Petitioner

          Chad A. Readler John S. Hogan Brianne W. Cohen Rebecca H. Phillips [ARGUED] Stefanie A. Svoren-Jay United States Department of Justice Office of Immigration Litigation Counsel for Respondent

          Before: JORDAN, KRAUSE, Circuit Judges and STEARNS [*] District Judge.

          OPINION OF THE COURT

          STEARNS, District Judge.

         Petitioner Roman Ildefonso-Candelario challenges a ruling of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) upholding an Immigration Judge's determination that he is statutorily ineligible for cancellation of removal because of a prior conviction for a crime involving moral turpitude. For the following reasons, we will grant the petition and remand to the BIA for further proceedings.

         I. Background

         Ildefonso-Candelario, a citizen of Mexico, entered the United States unlawfully, allegedly in 1996. In October of 2015, he pled guilty in Pennsylvania state court to a misdemeanor count of obstructing the administration of law or other governmental function. See 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5101. The following March, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) took Ildefonso-Candelario into custody, charging him with being removable as a result of being an alien present without admission or parole. See 8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(6)(A)(i). At his first hearing before the Immigration Judge, Ildefonso-Candelario conceded removability on the basis of his prior unlawful entry, but announced his intention to seek cancellation of removal. See id. § 1229b(b)(1)(A)-(D). In response, counsel for ICE suggested that Ildefonso-Candelario's prior conviction might qualify as a crime involving moral turpitude, [1] see id. § 1182(a)(2)(A)(i)(I), which would render him statutorily ineligible for cancellation of removal, see id. § 1229b(b)(1)(C).

         Shortly thereafter, the Immigration Judge issued an initial ruling holding that section 5101 was "categorically" a crime involving moral turpitude. On the same day that the Immigration Judge issued his ruling, ICE added a charge of removability for committing a crime involving moral turpitude against Ildefonso-Candelario. See id. § 1227(a)(2)(i)(I). At his next hearing before the Immigration Judge, Ildefonso-Candelario moved for reconsideration of the Immigration Judge's ruling on section 5101. The Immigration Judge rejected Ildefonso-Candelario's arguments, again holding that section 5101 is categorically a morally turpitudinous crime. The Immigration Judge then ordered Ildefonso-Candelario removed to Mexico. Ildefonso-Candelario took an appeal to the BIA.

         A single member of the BIA upheld the ruling "[f]or the reasons given by the Immigration Judge." App. at 4. This timely petition followed. While the petition was pending, the government moved to remand the matter to the BIA for further consideration. That motion was referred to the merits panel for our consideration.

         II. Discussion

         When the BIA adopts an immigration judge's decision and reasoning, we review both rulings. See Quao Lin Dong v. Att'y Gen., 638 F.3d 223, 227 (3d Cir. 2011). Whether an offense is a crime involving moral turpitude is a question of law subject to de novo review. See Javier v. Att'y Gen., 826 F.3d 127, 130 (3d Cir. 2016). Typically, we accord so-called Chevron deference[2] to the BIA's reasonable determination that an offense is a turpitudinous crime. Mehboob v. Att'y Gen., 549 F.3d 272, 275 (3d Cir. 2008). Here, however, the government concedes that the BIA's decision-a non-precedential disposition issued by a single member-is not entitled to Chevron deference. See Mahn v. Att'y Gen., 767 F.3d 170, 173 (3d Cir. 2014). In any event, we do not defer to the BIA's interpretation of criminal statutes. Mehboob, 549 F.3d at 275.

         To determine whether an offense involves moral turpitude, the BIA and this court apply a categorical approach.[3]See, e.g., Partyka v. Att'y Gen., 417 F.3d 408, 411 (3d Cir. 2005). Under the categorical approach, we examine the elements of the offense "to ascertain the least culpable conduct necessary to sustain [a] conviction under the statute." Jean-Louis v. Att'y Gen., 582 F.3d 462, 465-66 (3d Cir. 2009). A morally turpitudinous offense involves "conduct that is inherently base, vile, or depraved, contrary to the accepted rules of morality and the duties owed other persons, either individually or to society in general." Knapik v. Ashcroft, 384 F.3d 84, 89 (3d Cir. 2004). "[T]he hallmark of moral turpitude is a reprehensible act committed with an appreciable level of consciousness or deliberation." Par ...


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