Prudencia v. Holder, No. 10-2382

Decided: January 30, 2012

Ricardo Prudencio was arrested and charged with the carnal knowledge of a thirteen year-old-child. He later pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Thereafter, the Department of Homeland Security sought to deport Prudencio for having committed a crime involving moral turpitude within five years of legally entering the United States. The immigration judge granted the removal of Prudencio, finding that under the Attorney General’s Silva-Trevino framework, Prudencio’s crime did involve moral turpitude.

On appeal, the Fourth Circuit vacated the decision. The court held that the language regarding moral turpitude in the Immigration and Naturalization Act, 8 U.S. C. § 1227, was not ambiguous and therefore the procedural framework of Silva-Trevino was not necessary and constituted an unauthorized exercise of the Attorney General’s authority.

The Silva-Trevino analysis involved three steps. The first two came from United States Supreme Court precedent regarding evaluating moral turpitude for an INA offense. Shepard v. United States, 544 U.S. 13 (2005); Taylor v. United States, 495 U.S. 575 (1990). The third step, however, went beyond these precedents and allowed immigration judges to look outside the record of conviction to any other relevant information as “necessary or appropriate.” The Fourth Circuit rejected this approach and found that under Taylor and Shepard, Prudencio’s offense was not a crime of moral turpitude and he was not subject to deportation.

Judge Dennis Shedd dissented. He argued that immigration judges, as executive branch employees enforcing a matter within the purview of the political branches, should be given deference in the application of their own procedures. He would defer to the Silva-Trevino framework established by the Attorney General and support the removal of Prudencio.

Full Opinion

C. Alexander Cable

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