Monday, July 20, 2009

Figeroa-Matos (not precedential): BIA May Not Ignore Key Evidence In The Record

Figueroa-Matos v. Holder
February 23, 2009
Not Precedential
Judges Scirica, Ambro, Smith. Decision by Chief Judge Scirica.

Argued by Matthew D. Baxter of Genevieve Gross & Associates, PC in Huntingdon Valley, PA for Mr. Figueroa-Matos and Nancy E. Friedman (argued) and Sharon M. Clay for OIL and the government.

The Third Circuit overturned a case decided by the BIA and IJ Roxanne C. Hladylowycz.

Under section 212(c) relief (which Congress prospectively deleted in 1996), an IJ has the power to save a legal permanent resident from deportation based on a variety of factors, including rehabilitation from a criminal conviction. In this case, the IJ concluded that Mr. Figueroa-Matos deserved section 212(c) relief and was "genuinely rehabilitated." ICE appealed and in a divided opinion, the BIA overturned the IJ and denied relief. The BIA erred by trying to make independent findings of fact that contradicted the IJ's findings. The BIA simply refused to acknowledge the IJ's factual finding that the man was genuinely rehabilitated.

Even if for the sake of argument, the BIA could acknowledge rehabilitation yet try to give it little weight, that is not what the BIA did here -- the BIA just ignored one of the IJ's key factual findings. The BIA may not ignore the evidence in the record.

Here, the BIA improperly broke the law by ignoring the key evidence in the record and the Third Circuit overturned the BIA. It is disappointing that the BIA broke the rules by ignoring the evidence. The BIA is supposed to decide appeals based on the record, not to issue rulings that have no relation to what happened in the particular case.


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