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Gerardo Romero-Ochoa v. Holder

The Ninth Circuit held that INA § 101(f)(7) (8 U.S.C. § 1101(f)(7)), which establishes an irrebuttable presumption that an individual lacks good moral character if he has been incarcerated for an aggregate period of 180 days or more during the relevant period, is constitutional.

The petitioner in this case served approximately 8 months in prison for vehicular manslaughter. As a result, the IJ found that he lacked good moral character under § 101(f)(7) and therefore denied his applications for cancellation of removal and voluntary departure. The petitioner argued that § 101(f)(7) is unconstitutional because Congress may not use length of time served in custody as a proxy for seriousness and must instead specify the criminal offenses which trigger the presumption that an individual lacks good moral character. The court applied rational-basis review and rejected the argument. The court agreed that § 101(f)(7) might produce disparate outcomes based on variations in state sentencing schemes and might prove over- or under-inclusive in individual cases but held that it was nevertheless rational for Congress to conclude that most aliens who have been convicted of crimes serious enough to warrant 6 months of imprisonment will lack good moral character.