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The Ninth Circuit held that the Board of Immigration Appeals improperly engaged in fact-finding when it reversed the immigration judge's determination that the petitioner was not inadmissible under 8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(2)(C) for knowing participation in drug trafficking. The petitioner had attempted to enter the U.S. in his employer's truck on instructions to get parts for the business and to have the tires changed on the truck. Inspectors at the port of entry found marijuana in the gas tank and charged him with inadmissibility (no criminal charges were filed). The immigration judge found the petitioner testified credibly that he had not known about the drugs. The Board reversed that decision based on testimony by one of the Customs and Border Protection officers who conducted the inspection. The testimony consisted of estimates and proffered opinion, but the immigration judge had declined to make findings of fact based on that testimony. By making findings of fact in the first place, the Board acted contrary to the limits on its authority under the regulations. The court held the Board should have remanded to the immigration judge for additional findings of fact.

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The Board held that mere submission of a conviction document by DHS is not enough to establish its admissibility, at least where the respondent denies the alleged conviction. The government must provide some form of authentication, and it must be sufficiently reliable to comport with due process. The Board held that 8 C.F.R. § 1003.41(a), (b), and (c) establish safe harbors for conviction documents that are originals, certified copies, and electronic records certified in writing by both the state repository and DHS, but it also held that those were not the only admissible conviction documents.

In this case, DHS submitted an electronic conviction record that was not certified by either the court that generated it or by the DHS officer who received it. Nor was there any attempt to authenticate it in any other way. The Board therefore found that the document was not admissible and remanded for further factfinding.

Read the decision at http://www.justice.gov/eoir/vll/intdec/vol25/3739.pdf.

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