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Media Alerts - Espinal-Andrades v. Holder --Fourth Circuit
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April 4, 2015
  Espinal-Andrades v. Holder --Fourth Circuit
Headline: State Arson Conviction Lands Immigrant in Deportation Hot Water

Area of Law: Federal Agency Law, Immigration Law (Deportation)

Issue Presented: Whether a state arson conviction qualifies as an aggravated felony under the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii).

Brief Summary: Sandra Yamileth Espinal-Andrades emigrated to the U.S. from El Salvador and became a lawful permanent resident in 1999. In 2009, Ms. Espinal-Andrades was charged with four counts of arson and reckless endangerment in Maryland state court. She entered a plea of guilty to first-degree arson and served nearly a year in prison.

In 2013, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) began deportation proceedings against Ms. Espinal-Andrades, arguing that her conviction qualified as an aggravated felony under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). An immigration judge agreed with DHS, and allowed the deportation proceedings to move forward. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) affirmed the decision.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit agreed, and held that a state arson conviction qualified as an aggravated felony under the INA. The court used the two-step Chevron analysis to reach its decision. First, the court found the federal law to be unambiguous. The court held that Congress clearly intended for aggravated crimes described in federal statutes to include substantively identical state and foreign crimes that lack only the federal jurisdictional element. Second, the court held that even if the federal law was ambiguous, the BIA's interpretation of the law was reasonable under traditional statutory interpretation.

The Fourth Circuit's decision in this case expressly disagrees with a recent decision from the Third Circuit, Bautista v. Attorney General of the United States, which held that a Pennsylvania man's third-degree arson conviction, under New York state law, did not qualify as an aggravated felony under the INA.

To read the full opinion, please click here.

Panel: Judges Shedd, Agee, and Wynn

Argument Date: 10/30/2014

Date of Issued Opinion: 01/22/2015

Docket Number: Case No. 13-2418

Case Alert Author: Douglas Sampson, Univ. of Maryland Carey School of Law

Counsel: Jorge Enrique Artieda, JORGE E. ARTIEDA LAW OFFICE PC, Falls Church, Virginia, for Petitioner. Colin James Tucker, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Respondent. ON BRIEF: Stuart F. Delery, Assistant Attorney General, Civil Division, Anthony W. Norwood, Senior Litigation Counsel, Office of Immigration Litigation, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Respondent.

Author of Opinion: Judge Wynn

Case Alert Circuit Supervisor: Professor Renée Hutchins

    Posted By: Renee Hutchins @ 04/04/2015 02:47 PM     4th Circuit  

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