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Respondent With A Pending Appeal of a Criminal Conviction Does Not Have a Criminal Conviction

The Board of Immigration Appeals published a decision holding that when a respondent has a pending appeal under section 460.30 of the New York Criminal Procedure Law the criminal conviction his not yet final and therefore the respondent has not been “convicted” as defined by INA §1101(a)(48)(A).

Matter of Brathwaite

Matter of Brathwaite, 28 I&N Dec. 751 (BIA 2023)

The respondent filed a motion to terminate his removal proceedings. The Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) opposes the motion. The Immigration Judge had denied the motion and found the respondent removable and the Board had originally affirmed.

The Board of Immigration Appeals was remanded the case by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals to determine the finality of the respondent’s criminal convictions under section 101(a)(48)(A) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”), 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(48)(A) (2018), and to reassess whether he
is removable as charged. Brathwaite v. Garland, 3 F.4th 542 (2d Cir. 2021).

Facts of the Case

The respondent is a native and citizen of Trinidad and Tobago and a lawful permanent resident of the United States. DHS served the respondent with a notice to appear alleging that on January 31, 2018, he was convicted of multiple offenses including identity theft, larceny, and possession of stolen property in violation of New York law. DHS charged the respondent with removability under sections 237(a)(2)(A)(ii) and 237(a)(2)(A)(iii) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(2)(A)(ii), (iii) (2018), for having been convicted of two or more crimes involving moral turpitude and an aggravated felony, respectively.

The respondent filed a motion to terminate, arguing that his convictions were not final for immigration purposes under section 101(a)(48)(A) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(48)(A), because a New York court had granted his motion for leave to file a late notice of appeal under section 460.30 of the New York Criminal Procedure Law.

The Board’s Decision

Pursuant to the Board’s interpretation of section 101(a)(48)(A) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(48)(A), as affirmed by the Second Circuit, a conviction does not support removability until it is final, meaning that the right to direct appellate review has been waived or exhausted. See Brathwaite, 3 F.4th at 552–53 (affirming the Board’s conclusion in Matter of J. M. Acosta, 27 I&N Dec. at 431, that in enacting section 101(a)(48)(A), Congress intended to incorporate the finality rule of Matter of Ozkok, 19 I&N Dec. 546, 552 n.7 (BIA 1988)). Determining whether direct appellate review has been waived or exhausted requires analysis under the criminal procedure laws of the convicting State.

Despite reversing the rule in Matter of J. M. Acosta, the Second Circuit did not reach whether other limits on finality relating to a request for a late-filed appeal under section 460.30 of the New York Criminal Procedure Law might be imposed. See Brathwaite, 3 F.4th at 553–54.

The BIA recognized DHS’ concerns about delays in the New York criminal process and differing outcomes nationally depending on the criminal procedure statutes in different States. However, the Board found that DHS’ proposal is at odds with the court’s explanation of New York’s appellate process set forth in Brathwaite v. Garland. The Second Circuit clearly stated that a motion to file a late notice of appeal under section 460.30, once accepted by the New York court, is deemed the equivalent of a timely-filed direct appeal. Id. The Board found no authority supporting a qualification on the characteristics of a direct appeal as of right.

A motion for leave to file a late notice of appeal “must be made with due diligence after the time for the taking of such appeal has expired.” N.Y. Crim. Proc. Law § 460.30(1) (McKinney 2019). A New York court that has granted such a motion has therefore necessarily concluded that the defendant proceeded with due diligence, even if the motion was filed the maximum 1 year and 30 days after the conviction. We cannot substitute our judgment in that regard.

In removal proceedings, DHS has the burden of establishing by clear and convincing evidence that a respondent who has been admitted to the United States is deportable. INA § 240(c)(3)(A), 8 U.S.C. § 1229a(c)(3)(A) (2018); 8 C.F.R. § 1240.8(a) (2023); accord Matter of Thomas and Thompson, 27 I&N Dec. 674, 690 (A.G. 2019). Thus, because an appeal accepted under section 460.30 of the New York Criminal Procedure Law is classified as a direct appeal, a respondent with a pending appeal under this section does not have a final conviction for immigration purposes.

NOTE

The BIA’s analysis applies only to section 460.30 of the New York Criminal Procedure Law based on its classification as a direct appeal of right under controlling precedent. Such an appeal is distinct from discretionary appeals beyond the first appeal of right in New York. See generally N.Y. Crim. Proc. Law §§ 450.90, 460.10(5), 460.20 (McKinney 2023).

Full Decision



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