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Matter of Jorge Moradel: “Specific-Possession” Exception to Deportation

— March 14, 2022

The immigration court decided that the criminal conviction made him ineligible for admission to the U.S, and that he could not try to get a waiver. 

The Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) decided that a Special Juvenile Immigrant applying for adjustment of status may try to waive (obtain an exception)  his inadmissibility, due to a single offense of a small amount of marijuana.  The BIA remanded (returned) this case to the Immigration Court, to decide if Mr. Moradel qualifies for the “specific-possession” exception.

Special Immigrant Juveniles (“SIJS”)  is an immigration classification available to certain undocumented immigrants under the age of 21.  SIJS is a way for these immigrants to apply for and obtain legal permanent residence in the United States.  Once a minor receives SIJS, the person can apply to adjust his/her status to that of a lawful permanent resident.  

Mr. Moradel was a Honduran native, and came to the United States in 1999, at the age of four.  He was not admitted or paroled.  Admitted means that a foreign national made a lawful entry after inspection or authorization by an immigration officer.  Parole means that a foreign national may be able to enter the U.S. for a temporary time period, and is otherwise not admissible or otherwise eligible for admission to the U.S.  

In 2013, Mr. Moradel was placed in removal (deportation) proceedings twice. The first time, he filed a petition (asked the Court) to be a SIJ, and this was granted.  Four years later, he was convicted of marijuana possession for a small amount.  This conviction made him inadmissible to the U.S. He applied for an adjustment of status to remain in the U.S.  An adjustment of status means that a foreign national is applying to be a lawful permanent resident.  The immigration court decided that the criminal conviction made him ineligible for admission to the U.S, and that he could not try to get a waiver.

Image via Pixabay/Wild0ne. Public domain.

The BIA decided in his favor.  The BIA interpreted the statutes differently than the immigration judge. There is a waiver of inadmissibility for SIJS who are applying for adjustment of status, relevant to drug possession.  The relevant statute provides that there is a simple drug possession exception to inadmissibility for SIJS.  The immigration court interpreted this section to apply only for a particular group of SIJS, not all.  The BIA interpreted this to mean that it applies to all SIJS, and is circumstance-specific.  The BIA sent the case back to the immigration court to reconsider the adjustment of status.

This case demonstrates the importance of seeking advice from an experienced immigration attorney and not giving up on a case after an initial loss.  Immigration law is very complicated.  The statutes are complicated and confusing and the judges often reach different conclusions on how the statutes should be interpreted.   It is the immigration attorney’s job to steer the judges to the most favorable interpretation and to navigate this highly complicated system.

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