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Hernan Ismael Delgado v. Holder

The en banc Ninth Circuit found, as the government conceded, that it had jurisdiction to review the determination of whether a crime is particularly serious for asylum and withholding of removal purposes. The Supreme Court's decision in Kucana v. Holder, 130 S. Ct. 827, 837 (2010), compelled this result because Congress did not explicitly set out the Attorney General's discretionary authority in the text of the statute. The Ninth Circuit overruled its contrary precedent in Matsuk v. INS, 247 F.3d 999, 1002 (9th Cir. 2001). It further held that the BIA had the authority to determine whether crimes were particularly serious on a case by case basis.

Delgado had three DUI convictions that the immigration judge held were particularly serious crimes, both individually and collectively. The BIA affirmed with no independent analysis, but did not expressly adopt the IJ's decision or review it for abuse of discretion. Thus, the Ninth could not determine the reasoning behind the BIA's decision and remanded for explication. The court noted the BIA could have found that one or more of the convictions could have been a particularly serious crime individually, they could collectively be a particularly serious crime, or the last of the three could be a particularly serious crime in light of the priors.

Judge Reinhardt concurred, but argued that the BIA would abuse its discretion if it found a run-of-the-mill DUI to constitute a particularly serious crime that barred asylum and withholding of removal. Under current law, a DUI does not even constitute a criminal ground of inadmissibility or deportability (although it does raise the issue of inadmissibility for having a mental disorder and an associated behavior that poses a risk to the public safety), so barring protection for a person who faces a risk of persecution or death on that basis doesn't make sense. Judge Reinhardt noted that even if a DUI did not constitute a categorical bar, the agency still would have the authority to deny asylum based on the DUI in the exercise of discretion--which would better allow the adjudicator to weigh the seriousness of the crime against the reasons for granting relief.

Judge Reinhardt's concurrence also maintained that the BIA would err if it analyzed the convictions collectively or if it found the last to be particularly serious based on the priors. The statutory text indicates that a crime's seriousness should be assessed separately.

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