In Matter of Jackson, the Board held that barring U.S. citizens and permanent residents from petitioning for family members if they have been convicted of specified offenses against minors is not an impermissibly retroactive change to the law when applied to petitioners with convictions that pre-date the enactment of the bar. This is the third of a trio of decisions on May 20, 2014, concerning the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 ("Adam Walsh Act").
In this case, a woman and her child were admitted to the U.S. on K nonimmigrant visas based on a fiancee petition by a U.S. citizen. They applied to adjust to permanent resident status after the woman married the petitioner. USCIS denied the application and put them both in removal proceedings, alleging the visas were invalid because the petitioner was not eligible to petition for them under the Adam Walsh Act. The Adam Walsh Act went into effect on July 27, 2006, while the fiancee petition was pending. It prohibits citizens and permanent residents from petitioning for family members if they have been convicted of a specified offense against a minor, unless the petitioner can prove there is no risk to the beneficiary of the petition. In this case, the petitioner had a conviction for a specified offense from 1979 and USCIS did not find "no risk."
The Board held that applying the Adam Walsh Act to a conviction that pre-dated its enactment was not impermissibly retroactive because the prohibition on immigrant petitions "addresses dangers that arise after its enactment." In other words, the Adam Walsh Act is meant to protect this woman and child from future harm at the hands of the petitioner by deporting them--even though the petitioner's conviction is 35 years old.