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Rajendra Barma v. Erich. Holder

April 5, 2011

RAJENDRA BARMA, PETITIONER,
v.
ERICH. HOLDER, JR., ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES, RESPONDENT.



Petition for Review of an Order of the Board of Immigration Appeals. No. A089-622-822

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rovner, Circuit Judge.

ARGUED SEPTEMBER 20, 2010

Before EASTERBROOK, Chief Judge, and POSNER and ROVNER, Circuit Judges.

Petitioner Rajendra Barma was admitted as a visitor to the United States from Canada, with authorization to remain in the United States for six months. He overstayed his visa and continued to reside in the United States for more than half of his life. During that time, he was convicted of a number of crimes under Wisconsin state law. In October 1994, he was convicted of possession of drug paraphernalia. Two years later, he was convicted of criminal damage to property in La Crosse County Circuit Court in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and in 2007 he was again convicted of criminal damage to property concerning the same 1996 incident, this time in Dane County Circuit Court in Madison, Wisconsin. Finally, in 2008 he was convicted of two more offenses: lewd and lascivious behavior-exposure, and theft of movable property less than or equal to $2500. He does not contest the validity of those Wisconsin state law convictions.

On March 26, 2009, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) served Barma with a Notice to Appear, charging him with being subject to removal under three independent grounds: (1) as an alien present in the United States who unlawfully remained longer than permitted, 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(1)(B); (2) as an alien convicted of two or more crimes involving moral turpitude, 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(2)(A)(ii); and (3) as an alien convicted of an offense relating to a controlled substance, other than a single offense involving possession for one's own use of 30 grams or less of marijuana, 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(2)(B)(I).

Barma admitted that he was subject to removal for remaining in the United States longer than permitted as a visitor, but denied that the other grounds of removal applied to him. He maintained that his convictions were not for crimes involving moral turpitude. In addition, he argued that his conviction for possession of drug paraphernalia could not be a ground of removal because it was equivalent to a conviction for possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana for personal use, which is exempted as a ground of removal. As support for that argument, Barma pointed to our decision in Escobar Barraza v. Mukasey, 519 F.3d 388, 392 (7th Cir. 2008), which held that paraphernalia designed for use with personal-possession quantities of marijuana relates to the drug, and the implied quantity is under 30 grams, thus falling within the same provision as possession of under 30 grams of the drug itself.

The Immigration Judge (IJ) found that Barma was subject to removal on the two grounds: (1) that he remained in the United States longer than permitted as a visitor, and (2) that he was convicted of an offense relating to a controlled substance other than possession of marijuana of less than 30 grams. The IJ held that Barma was not removable under 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(2)(A)(ii) because, although the IJ viewed the theft conviction as a crime involving moral turpitude, the IJ held that the convictions for lewd and lascivious behavior, criminal damage to property, and possession of drug paraphernalia were not crimes involving moral turpitude.

The IJ then addressed Barma's request for relief in the form of cancellation of removal under 8 U.S.C. § 1229b. In order to be eligible for cancellation of removal, Barma must demonstrate: (1) that he has been physically present in the United States for a continuous period of at least 10 years immediately preceding the application date; (2) that he has been a person of good moral character during that time; (3) that he has not been convicted of an offense under 8 U.S.C. §§ 1182(a)(2), 1227(a)(2), or 1227(a)(3), subject to paragraph 5; and (4) that removal would result in exceptional and extremely unusual hard-ship to his parents, spouse, or children who are citizens or permanent residents. 8 U.S.C. § 1229b(b)(11). The IJ held that Barma failed to meet the third prong of that test. The IJ held that Barma's conviction for theft was an offense under 8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(2) and therefore rendered him ineligible for cancellation of removal. The IJ further stated that Barma's conviction for drug paraphernalia arguably would render him ineligible as an offense under §1182(a)(2) as well.

The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) upheld the determination, albeit on different reasoning. Rather than address the theft conviction, the BIA rested its decision on Barma's conviction for possession of drug paraphernalia. The BIA held that the drug paraphernalia conviction was a conviction under § 1182(a)(2)(A), which includes any conviction "relating to a controlled substance." Accordingly, the BIA held that Barma did not qualify for cancellation of removal because he was convicted of an offense under § 1182(a)(2). Although Barma argued that he should be allowed to waive that disqualifying offense under § 1182(h), the BIA rejected that contention because the cancellation of removal statute did not incorporate the § 1182(h) waiver. Barma now appeals those decisions to this court. Where, as here, the BIA agrees with the IJ's decision but supplements that decision with its own explanation for rejecting the appeal, we review the IJ's decision as sup- plemented by the BIA's reasoning. Juarez v. Holder, 599 F.3d 560, 564 (7th Cir. 2010).

Barma argues on appeal that the IJ erred in holding that the drug paraphernalia conviction rendered him removable under 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(2)(B)(I). We need not address that contention, however, because Barma does not contest that he is removable under a different provision. Barma concedes that he unlawfully remained in this country longer than permitted and therefore was removable under 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(1)(B). The only issue for this appeal, then, is whether the IJ and the BIA erred in determining that he was not eligible for cancellation of removal.

Barma contends that neither the theft nor the drug paraphernalia conviction should prevent him from obtaining cancellation of removal under 8 U.S.C. § 1229b(b)(1)(C). In relevant part, that statute provides that the Attorney General may cancel removal if the alien:

(A) has been physically present in the United States for a continuous period of not less than 10 years immediately preceding the date of such application;

(B) has been a person of good moral character during such period;

(C) has not been convicted of an offense under section 1182(a)(2), 1227(a)(2), or 1227(a)(3) of this title, subject to paragraph ...


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