Attorney General Puts Americans’ Safety First

Press Releases

October 28, 2019

Agrees with IRLI’s briefs in two new decisions

WASHINGTON—Attorney General William Barr has issued rulings in two immigration cases he had referred to himself. In one ruling, he cut back on the power of state court judges to enact a form of judicial amnesty. In the other, he made it much easier to deport illegal alien drunk drivers. The Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) had filed friend-of-the-court briefs in both cases.

The first case arose because, by law, an alien who has been convicted of a crime and sentenced to imprisonment for one year has committed an “aggravated felony” and is deportable. But routinely, such aliens, faced with this immigration consequence of their actions, ask the state court that convicted and sentenced them to reduce their sentence to one of less than one year’s confinement. Too often, state court judges go along, and the aliens present the “reduced” sentence to an immigration judge and argue that they have not—now—committed an aggravated felony.

In his decision, Barr strongly curtailed this form of judicial amnesty, holding that sentencing alterations by state court judges “will have no effect for immigration purposes if based on reasons unrelated to the merits of the underlying criminal proceeding, such as rehabilitation or the avoidance of immigration consequences.”

In the other decision, Barr ruled that two or more convictions for drunk driving by an alien raise a presumption that the alien lacks the “good moral character” necessary to receive the immigration benefit of cancellation of removal.

“We applaud both of these decisions,” said Dale L. Wilcox, executive director and general counsel of IRLI. “The bottom line is that removing aliens who are serious felons or drunk drivers from the country will save many American lives. We are pleased that Attorney General Barr ignored the many briefs of the other side in these cases, and came to decisions that accurately reflect Congress’s purpose, which was not to give offending aliens chance after chance, but to safeguard Americans.”

The cases are Matter of Thomas and Thompson, 27 I&N Dec. 674 (A.G. 2019) and Matter of Castillo-Perez, 27 I&N Dec. 664 (A.G. 2019).

For additional information, contact: Brian Lonergan • 202-232-5590 • [email protected]

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