Thursday, April 21, 2011

Perez-Mejia v. Holder (9th Cir. - April 21, 2011)

It's not that Judge Wolf (sitting by designation from Massachusetts) gets this one wrong.  He doesn't.  Perez-Mejia was convicted of a deportable offense.  He gets removed.  End of story.  Should have thought about that before you decided to sling dope.  That's for citizens.  Enjoy Mexico.  For the rest of your life.

One nonetheless feels a little bad for the guy.  Or at least I do.  He gets convicted in 1997 of possession with intent.  Oops.  Not the first person that's ever happened to.  He serves his sentence.  He's married to a U.S. citizen and has two children.  He petitions to become a legal permanent resident, full disclosing his prior conviction.  His petition is granted, and he becomes a LPR.  So he's allowed in the country.  Thereafter, he goes on a trip, and doesn't do anything illegal.  But when he arrives back, an immigration officer at LAX notices his prior conviction, and seeks to deport him notwithstanding the fact that he's a legal resident.

And gets him deported.  An act which the Ninth Circuit affirms.

Why's that okay?  Because the INS made a mistake.  They shouldn't have granted him residence in the first place given his prior conviction, which made him ineligible.  So he shouldn't have been here, and so we're not going to allow him to be.  Even though he's a middle-aged guy at this point.

That's the right rule.  But still.  One feels bad for the guy.  Even more so for his U.S. citizen wife and children.  He made a mistake, but paid for it.  He thought he was okay.  He would have never left the country if he thought he wouldn't be allowed back.  Only the mistaken grant of LPR resulted in his trip, and this trip directly resulted in this permanent exclusion from his adopted home.

One other tangential style point.  After the first couple of introductory paragraphs, Judge Wolf writes:  "For the reasons stated below, the petition is being denied."  It's funny how you get used to certain things.  Here in the Ninth Circuit, we don't usually write that sentence that way.  We use the active voice.  Something like:  "For the reasons stated below, the petition is denied."  We are doing it.  It's not "being" denied.  It is denied.

Not that Judge Wolf is necessarily doing it wrong.  But that's the way it's done out here.  On the Best Coast.