Last week the Eighth Circuit upheld the Board of Immigration Appeals’ decision upholding the denial of an applicant’s adjustment of status application. Luis Garcia-Gonzalez was a native of Mexico and a lawful permanent resident. He was placed in removal proceedings for his 2005 conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d) for racketeering. He was placed in removal proceedings for committing an aggravated felony. The immigration judge ordered his removal after sustaining the charge and denied his application for adjustment of status since he was inadmissible and the BIA upheld.
The Eighth Circuit ruled this week that evidence of alienage obtained through a warrantless ICE search is not suppressible in removal proceedings. The petitioners were placed in removal proceedings and moved to suppress evidence of alienage under the Fourth Amendment‘s unreasonable search and seizure clause. They alleged in their affidavits that ICE agents barged into their home and arrested them. The immigration judge denied their motion to suppress since the information contained in their forms I-213 was reliable and the BIA upheld.
In the petition for review, the petitioners argued that their rights under the Fourth and the Fifth Amendments were violated because the immigration judge did not grant their request for a suppression hearing and did not allow them to confront the ICE agents. In denying their petition, the Eighth Circuit reasoned that the exclusionary rule under the Fourth Amendment does not apply in civil deportation proceedings. The court added that the application of the rule in removal proceedings is reserved to “egregious violations”. The court ruled that such violation did not exist since the agents went to the petitioners’ home after receiving a tip from an informant. Since the information was obtained from another source, the court upheld the immigration judge and the BIA. The court also denied the petitioners’ argument under the Fifth Amendment since it was a reiteration of their argument under the Fourth Amendment.
I agree with the Eighth Circuit’s decision regarding the Fourth Amendment since the agents received evidence of alienage from another credible source. However, the denial of the petition on Fifth Amendment grounds is unfounded since they emanate from different amendments which protect different rights. It is time to challenge the presumption that information in form I-213 is reliable especially when violation of protected rights occur.
In a decision issued last month, the Eighth Circuit ruled that Nebraska’s witness tampering statute is an aggravated felony under the Act and is thus a deportable offense. In Lugunas, the alien was convicted of witness tampering under Nebraska’s witness tampering statute. He was placed in removal proceedings and charged with being deportable for committing an aggravated felony. He moved to terminate the proceedings and the immigration judge denied his motion. The BIA upheld and he petitioner for review.
An alien is deportable under the Act if he was convicted of an aggravated felony. Witness tampering is an aggravated felony because it relates to obstruction of justice. In denying the petition and upholding the BIA’s decision, the Eighth Circuit reasoned that the witness tampering statute requires both the actus reus of interfering with witnesses and the intent to interfere with justice.
The Eleventh Circuit has not ruled on whether witness tampering is an aggravated felony. There is a circuit split on the issue and the question might be ripe for review by the Supreme Court.