673 F.2d 1013 (9th Cir. 1981), 80-7454, Phinpathya v. Immigration and Naturalization Service

Docket Nº:80-7454.
Citation:673 F.2d 1013
Party Name:Niyom PHINPATHYA and Padungsri Phinpathya, Petitioners, v. IMMIGRATION AND NATURALIZATION SERVICE, Respondent
Case Date:October 01, 1981
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

Page 1013

673 F.2d 1013 (9th Cir. 1981)

Niyom PHINPATHYA and Padungsri Phinpathya, Petitioners,



No. 80-7454.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

October 1, 1981

Argued and Submitted May 6, 1981.

As Amended on Denial of Rehearing and Rehearing En Banc April 5, 1982.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 1015

Michael D. Ullman, Beverly Hills, Cal., for petitioners.

Peter R. Osinoff, Asst. U.S. Atty., Los Angeles, Cal., for respondent.

Before CANBY, REINHARDT, Circuit Judges, and PFAELZER [*], District Judge.

REINHARDT, Circuit Judge.

Petitioners appeal the denials of their applications for suspension of deportation. We reverse.

Petitioners, husband and wife, are natives and citizens of Thailand who first entered the United States as nonimmigrant students. Mr. Phinpathya entered in August, 1968 and Mrs. Phinpathya in October, 1969. They were authorized to remain in the United States until July, 1971, but they remained beyond that date without permission. In 1974, Mrs. Phinpathya visited her sick mother in Thailand for three months; she reentered the United States as the spouse of a nonimmigrant student.

Deportation proceedings commenced in January, 1977. Orders to Show Cause were issued charging petitioners with deportability under 8 U.S.C. § 1251(a)(2) as nonimmigrants who had remained beyond the time authorized. At the deportation hearing, petitioners admitted deportability and applied for suspension of deportation under 8 U.S.C. § 1254(a)(1). The immigration judge granted Mr. Phinpathya's application, but denied Mrs. Phinpathya's application. The immigration judge found Mrs. Phinpathya to be statutorily ineligible for suspension of deportation on the ground that she had not satisfied the seven years continuous physical presence requirement of section 1254(a)(1). Mrs. Phinpathya was given voluntary departure.

The immigration judge's rulings were appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). The BIA reversed as to Mr. Phinpathya on the ground that he failed to meet the extreme hardship requirement of section 1254(a)(1). The BIA affirmed as to Mrs. Phinpathya on the grounds that (1) she failed to meet the continuous physical presence requirement of section 1254(a)(1), and (2) she failed to meet the good moral character requirement of section 1254(a)(1).

Section 1254(a)(1) empowers the Attorney General, in his discretion, to suspend deportation. 1 To be eligible for this discretionary suspension of deportation, however, an alien must show: (1) continuous physical presence in the United States for the seven years immediately preceding his application for suspension of deportation, (2) good moral character for these seven years, and (3) extreme hardship to himself or to his spouse, parent or child who is an American citizen or a lawful permanent resident. 8 U.S.C. § 1254(a)(1). The issue in the case before us is whether the BIA erred in its determination that neither Mr. nor Mrs. Phinpathya was eligible for suspension of deportation.

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  1. Mr. Phinpathya

    The BIA denied Mr. Phinpathya's application for suspension of deportation on the ground that he did not prove extreme hardship. 2 We must decide whether the BIA abused its discretion in its finding that Mr. Phinpathya would not suffer extreme hardship if deported. See INS v. Wang, 450 U.S. 139, 101 S.Ct. 1027, 67 L.Ed.2d 123 (1981) (per curiam).

    In Wang, the Supreme Court stated that the Immigration and Naturalization Act commits the determination of extreme hardship "in the first instance to the Attorney General and his delegates, and (that) construction and application of (the extreme hardship) standard should not be overturned by a reviewing court simply because it may prefer another interpretation of the statute." 101 S.Ct. at 1031. We proceed in our review of the decision of the BIA, therefore, mindful of the limited nature of our function.

    This is not the usual case in which the parents of an American citizen child are to be deported. Cf. Wang, 101 S.Ct. at 1031. Here, the Phinpathyas have a young daughter, Nissa, who was born in the United States and is an American citizen. What distinguishes this case, however, is the fact that Nissa has epilepsy. She regularly suffers from convulsive attacks. Nissa's epilepsy, although controlled, requires constant medical attention. She has a personal physician whom she visits weekly. She takes anti-convulsive medicine on a daily basis. Without constant medical attention and medication, Nissa's life would be endangered.

    The BIA, in making its determination, considered both the hardship to Mr. Phinpathya and to Nissa. 3 It found no extreme hardship because there was insufficient evidence on the record that Nissa would receive inadequate medical care in Thailand. Following the mandate of the Supreme Court, we do not question this finding on the basis of our own view of what constitutes extreme hardship.

    We do, however, question the finding relating to Nissa on a different ground. The BIA proceeded on the assumption that when evidence of a serious medical problem is presented, a finding of extreme hardship cannot be made unless there is a factual showing of inadequate medical care in the country to which the alien will be deported. It then based its hardship determination on the fact that there was no proof offered that medical care for epileptics was inadequate in Thailand.

    While the absence of proof of inadequate medical care may in some cases be dispositive of extreme hardship claims based on medical problems, it is not the exclusive factor to be considered in all such cases. In this case, the BIA did not consider, for...

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