Judulang v. Holder, No. 10–694.

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtJustice KAGAN delivered the opinion of the Court.
Citation565 U.S. 42,132 S.Ct. 476,181 L.Ed.2d 449
Docket NumberNo. 10–694.
Decision Date12 December 2011
Parties Joel JUDULANG, Petitioner v. Eric H. HOLDER, Jr., Attorney General.

565 U.S. 42
132 S.Ct.
476
181 L.Ed.2d 449

Joel JUDULANG, Petitioner
v.
Eric H. HOLDER, Jr., Attorney General.

No. 10–694.

Supreme Court of the United States

Argued Oct. 12, 2011.
Decided Dec. 12, 2011.


Mark C. Fleming, Boston, MA, for Petitioner.

Curtis E. Gannon, Washington, DC, for Respondent.

Seth P. Waxman, Paul R.Q. Wolfson, James L. Quarles, III, Eric F. Citron, Wilmer Cutler Pickering, Hale and Dorr LLP, Washington, DC, Mark C. Fleming, Counsel of Record, Megan Barbero, Elizabeth Kent Cullen, Wilmer Cutler Pickering, Hale and Dorr LLP, Boston, MA, for Petitioner.

Donald B. Verrilli, Jr., Solicitor General Counsel of Record, Tony West, Assistant Attorney General, Edwin S. Kneedler, Deputy Solicitor General, Curtis E. Gannon, Assistant to the Solicitor General, Donald E. Keener, Alison R. Drucker, Andrew MacLachlan, Attorneys, Department of Justice, Washington, DC, for Respondent.

Justice KAGAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

565 U.S. 45

This case concerns the Board of Immigration Appeals' (BIA or Board) policy for deciding when resident aliens may apply to the Attorney General for relief from deportation under a now-repealed provision of the immigration laws. We hold that the BIA's approach is arbitrary and capricious.

The legal background of this case is complex, but the principle guiding our decision is anything but. When an administrative agency sets policy, it must provide a reasoned explanation for its action. That is not a high bar, but it is an unwavering one. Here, the BIA has failed to meet it.

I

A

Federal immigration law governs both the exclusion of aliens from admission to this country and the deportation of aliens previously admitted. Before 1996, these two kinds of action occurred in different procedural settings, with an alien seeking entry (whether for the first time or upon return from a trip abroad) placed in an "exclusion proceeding" and an alien already here channeled to a "deportation proceeding." See Landon v. Plasencia, 459 U.S. 21, 25–26, 103 S.Ct. 321, 74 L.Ed.2d 21 (1982)

565 U.S. 46

(comparing the two). Since that time, the Government has used a unified procedure, known as a "removal proceeding," for exclusions and deportations alike. See 8 U.S.C. §§ 1229, 1229a. But the statutory bases for excluding and deporting aliens have always varied. Now, as before, the immigration laws provide two separate lists of substantive grounds, principally involving criminal offenses, for these two actions. One list specifies what kinds of crime render an alien excludable (or in the term the statute now uses, "inadmissible"), see § 1182(a) (2006 ed., Supp. IV), while another—sometimes overlapping and sometimes divergent—list specifies what kinds of crime render an alien deportable from the country, see § 1227(a).

An additional, historic difference between exclusion and deportation cases involved the ability of the Attorney General to grant an alien discretionary relief. Until

132 S.Ct. 480

repealed in 1996, § 212(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 66 Stat. 187, 8 U.S.C. § 1182(c) (1994 ed.), authorized the Attorney General to admit certain excludable aliens. See also § 136(p) (1926 ed.) (predecessor provision to § 212(c)). The Attorney General could order this relief when the alien had lawfully resided in the United States for at least seven years before temporarily leaving the country, unless the alien was excludable on one of two specified grounds. See § 1182(c) (1994 ed.).1 But by its terms, § 212(c) did not apply when an alien was being deported.

565 U.S. 47

This discrepancy threatened to produce an odd result in a case called Matter of L–––––, 1 I. & N. Dec. 1 (1940), leading to the first-ever grant of discretionary relief in a deportation case. L– was a permanent resident of the United States who had been convicted of larceny. Although L–'s crime made him inadmissible, he traveled abroad and then returned to the United States without any immigration official's preventing his entry. A few months later, the Government caught up with L– and initiated a deportation action based on his larceny conviction. Had the Government apprehended L– at the border a short while earlier, he would have been placed in an exclusion proceeding where he could have applied for discretionary relief. But because L– was instead in a deportation proceeding, no such relief was available. Responding to this apparent anomaly, Attorney General Robert Jackson (on referral of the case from the BIA) determined that L– could receive a waiver: L–, Jackson said, "should be permitted to make the same appeal to discretion that he could have made if denied admission" when returning from his recent trip. Id., at 6. In accord with this decision, the BIA adopted a policy of allowing aliens in deportation proceedings to apply for discretionary relief under § 212(c) whenever they had left and reentered the country after becoming deportable. See Matter of S–––––, 6 I. & N. Dec. 392, 394–396 (1954).

But this approach created another peculiar asymmetry: Deportable aliens who had traveled abroad and returned could receive § 212(c) relief, while those who had never left could not. In Francis v. INS, 532 F.2d 268 (1976), the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit concluded that this disparity violated equal protection. Id., at 273 ("[A]n alien whose ties with this country are so strong that he has never departed after his initial entry should receive at least as much consideration as an individual who may leave and return from time to time"). The BIA acquiesced in the Second Circuit's decision, see Matter of Silva, 16 I. & N. Dec. 26 (1976), thus applying § 212(c) in deportation proceedings regardless of an alien's travel history.

565 U.S. 48

All this might have become academic when Congress repealed § 212(c) in 1996 and substituted a new discretionary remedy, known as "cancellation of removal," which is available in a narrow range of circumstances to excludable and deportable aliens alike. See 8 U.S.C. § 1229b.

132 S.Ct. 481

But in INS v. St. Cyr, 533 U.S. 289, 326, 121 S.Ct. 2271, 150 L.Ed.2d 347 (2001), this Court concluded that the broader relief afforded by § 212(c) must remain available, on the same terms as before, to an alien whose removal is based on a guilty plea entered before § 212(c)'s repeal. We reasoned that aliens had agreed to those pleas with the possibility of discretionary relief in mind and that eliminating this prospect would ill comport with " 'familiar considerations of fair notice, reasonable reliance, and settled expectations.' " Id., at 323, 121 S.Ct. 2271 (quoting Landgraf v. USI Film Products, 511 U.S. 244, 270, 114 S.Ct. 1483, 128 L.Ed.2d 229 (1994) ). Accordingly, § 212(c) has had an afterlife for resident aliens with old criminal convictions.

When the BIA is deciding whether to exclude such an alien, applying § 212(c) is an easy matter. The Board first checks the statutory ground that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has identified as the basis for exclusion; the Board may note, for example, that DHS has charged the alien with previously committing a "crime involving moral turpitude," see 8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(2)(A)(i)(I). Unless the charged ground is one of the pair falling outside § 212(c)'s scope, see n. 1, supra, the alien is eligible for discretionary relief. The Board then determines whether to grant that relief based on such factors as "the seriousness of the offense, evidence of either rehabilitation or recidivism, the duration of the alien's residence, the impact of deportation on the family, the number of citizens in the family, and the character of any service in the Armed Forces." St. Cyr, 533 U.S., at 296, n. 5, 121 S.Ct. 2271.

By contrast, when the BIA is deciding whether to deport an alien, applying § 212(c) becomes a tricky business. Recall

565 U.S. 49

that § 212(c) applies on its face only to exclusion decisions. So the question arises: How is the BIA to determine when an alien should receive § 212(c) relief in the deportation context?

One approach that the BIA formerly used considered how the alien would fare in an exclusion proceeding. To perform this analysis, the Board would first determine whether the criminal conviction making the alien deportable fell within a statutory ground for exclusion. Almost all convictions did so, largely because the "crime involving moral turpitude" ground encompasses so many offenses.2 Assuming that threshold inquiry were met, the Board would mimic its approach in exclusion cases—first making sure the statutory ground at issue was not excepted from § 212(c) and then conducting the multi-factor analysis. See Matter of Tanori, 15 I. & N. Dec. 566, 567–568 (1976) ; In re Manzueta, No. A93 022 672, 2003 WL 23269892 (BIA, Dec. 1, 2003).

A second approach is the one challenged here; definitively adopted in 2005 (after decades of occasional use), it often is called the "comparable-grounds" rule. See, e.g., De la Rosa v. U.S. Attorney General, 579 F.3d 1327, 1332 (C.A.11 2009). That...

To continue reading

Request your trial
177 practice notes
  • Martinez-Cedillo v. Sessions, No. 14-71742
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • July 23, 2018
    ...available to them at the time of their plea. See St. Cyr , 533 U.S. at 323–33, 121 S.Ct. 2271 ; see also Judulang v. Holder , 565 U.S. 42, 63 n.12, 132 S.Ct. 476, 181 L.Ed.2d 449 (suggesting that anti-retroactivity principles could apply equally to BIA decisions); Landgraf v. USI Film Produ......
  • N. N.M. Stockman's Ass'n v. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Serv., No. CIV 18-1138 JB\JFR
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
    • October 13, 2020
    ...habitat designation, and then provide a reasoned explanation for its final decision. See Petition at 26 (citing Judulang v. Holder, 565 U.S. 42, 53, 132 S.Ct. 476, 181 L.Ed.2d 449 (2011) ). The Stockman's Associations note that, when Fish & Wildlife finalized the designation, they "......
  • Guedes v. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, & Explosives, No. 18-cv-2988 (DLF)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • February 19, 2021
    ...is arbitrary and capricious in substance." Agape Church , 738 F.3d at 410 (alteration omitted) (quoting Judulang v. Holder , 565 U.S. 42, 52 n.7, 132 S.Ct. 476, 181 L.Ed.2d 449 (2011) ). At bottom, a reviewing court must decide whether an agency action is "within the scope of [the......
  • Tradeways, Ltd. v. U.S. Dep't of Treasury, Civil Action No. ELH-20-1324
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
    • June 24, 2020
    ...rubber stamp of agency action.'" Ergon-W. Va., Inc. v. EPA, 896 F.3d 600, 609 (4th Cir. 2018) (citation omitted); Judulang v. Holder, 565 U.S. 42, 53 (2011) (observing that "courts retain a role, and an important one, in ensuring that agencies have engaged in reasoned decisionmaki......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
177 cases
  • Martinez-Cedillo v. Sessions, No. 14-71742
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • July 23, 2018
    ...available to them at the time of their plea. See St. Cyr , 533 U.S. at 323–33, 121 S.Ct. 2271 ; see also Judulang v. Holder , 565 U.S. 42, 63 n.12, 132 S.Ct. 476, 181 L.Ed.2d 449 (suggesting that anti-retroactivity principles could apply equally to BIA decisions); Landgraf v. USI Film Produ......
  • N. N.M. Stockman's Ass'n v. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Serv., No. CIV 18-1138 JB\JFR
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
    • October 13, 2020
    ...habitat designation, and then provide a reasoned explanation for its final decision. See Petition at 26 (citing Judulang v. Holder, 565 U.S. 42, 53, 132 S.Ct. 476, 181 L.Ed.2d 449 (2011) ). The Stockman's Associations note that, when Fish & Wildlife finalized the designation, they "......
  • Guedes v. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, & Explosives, No. 18-cv-2988 (DLF)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • February 19, 2021
    ...is arbitrary and capricious in substance." Agape Church , 738 F.3d at 410 (alteration omitted) (quoting Judulang v. Holder , 565 U.S. 42, 52 n.7, 132 S.Ct. 476, 181 L.Ed.2d 449 (2011) ). At bottom, a reviewing court must decide whether an agency action is "within the scope of [the......
  • Tradeways, Ltd. v. U.S. Dep't of Treasury, Civil Action No. ELH-20-1324
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
    • June 24, 2020
    ...rubber stamp of agency action.'" Ergon-W. Va., Inc. v. EPA, 896 F.3d 600, 609 (4th Cir. 2018) (citation omitted); Judulang v. Holder, 565 U.S. 42, 53 (2011) (observing that "courts retain a role, and an important one, in ensuring that agencies have engaged in reasoned decisionmaki......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT