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ALVAREZ v. LYNCH, NO. 15-1599

Decided: July 7, 2016

The Fourth Circuit reversed and remanded the district court’s ruling.

Petitioner Gabriel Santos Alvarez is a citizen of Bolivia and has been a lawful permanent resident of the United States since 2002. In 2012, Alvarez was convicted of embezzlement and in 2014 was convicted of forging a public record. The Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) issued a Notice to Appear to remove Alvarez from the United States because he had been convicted of two crimes involving moral turpitude and on the separate justification of being an alien convicted of an aggravated felony – specifically, an offense “relating to” forgery. The Petitioner now seeks review of the decision finding him ineligible for cancellation of removal that was rendered ineligible due to Alvarez’s aggravated felony.

The Fourth Circuit was asked to decide whether a Virginia conviction for forgery of a public record was an aggravated felony under the INA, which is defined as “an offense relating to forgery for which the term of imprisonment is at least one year.” The federal definition “must be viewed in the abstract, to see whether the state statute shares the nature of the federal offense that serves as a point of comparison.” If it is not, the Petitioner may be eligible for cancellation of removal. Petitioner argued that Virginia forgery is so broad that it does not even “relate to” federal forgery; therefore it is not an aggravated felony.

The Fourth Circuit, however, concluded that the offenses are a categorical match under the statutes because Petitioner gave the Court no reason to conclude that Virginia would apply its statute to conduct that falls outside the generic definition of forgery. Because the offenses were a match, the two statutes necessarily relate to each other. Therefore, the Fourth Circuit held that the Virginia public record forgery is an aggravated felony.

Accordingly, the Court denied the petition for review as well as the Government’s renewed request to remand.

Full Opinion

Whitney Kamerzel