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Miranda-Romero v. Lynch

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

August 12, 2015

Angel Miranda-Romero, Petitioner
v.
Loretta E. Lynch, Attorney General of United States, Respondent

Submitted June 9, 2015

For Angel Miranda-Romero, Petitioner: Matthew Lorn Hoppock, Hoppock Law Firm, LLC, Overland Park, KS.

For Loretta E. Lynch, Attorney General of United States, Respondent: Karen Yolanda Drummond, Timothy Hayes, Trial Attorney, Carl H. McIntyre, Lindsay M. Murphy, Trial Attorney, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DC.

Before GRUENDER, MELLOY, and BENTON, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 525

GRUENDER, Circuit Judge.

The Board of Immigration Appeals (" BIA" ) determined that Angel Miranda-Romero, a Mexican citizen, was ineligible for cancellation of removal because he had committed a crime involving moral turpitude punishable by one or more years of imprisonment. See 8 U.S.C. § § 1229b(b)(1)(C), 1227(a)(2). Angel-Romero petitions our court for review, and we deny the petition.

Miranda-Romero was arrested in Kansas City, Missouri for multiple traffic offenses. Law-enforcement officials identified Miranda-Romero as a citizen of Mexico who had not been admitted or paroled for entry into the United States. As a result, Miranda-Romero faced removal proceedings. After conceding that he was removable, Miranda-Romero requested cancellation of removal. See 8 U.S.C. § 1229b. The immigration judge found that Miranda-Romero was not eligible for cancellation because he had been convicted in 1993 of violating California Penal Code § 472, a statute that criminalizes forgery and related conduct. On review, the BIA determined that § 472 is categorically a crime involving moral turpitude that carries a potential sentence of one year or more in prison. Accordingly, the BIA held that Miranda-Romero was ineligible for cancellation of removal. See 8 U.S.C. § § 1229b(b)(1)(C), 1227(a)(2); Avendano v. Holder, 770 F.3d 731, 734 (8th Cir. 2014) ( " The Immigration and Nationality Act provides that an alien who is convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude is ineligible for cancellation of removal, where the offense is punishable by a sentence of one year or longer." ). Miranda-Romero does not dispute that his conviction was punishable by one year or more in prison but argues that his prior offense does not constitute a crime involving moral turpitude.

" Although we lack jurisdiction to review the ultimately discretionary denial of cancellation of removal, 8 U.S.C. § 1252(a)(2)(B), we are not precluded from considering 'constitutional claims or questions of law raised upon a petition for review,' § 1252(a)(2)(D)." Sanchez-Velasco v. Holder, 593 F.3d 733, 735 (8th Cir. 2010). We review these questions de novo, " according substantial deference to the agency's interpretation of immigration statutes and regulations." Id. The phrase " crime involving moral turpitude" is not defined by statute and thus " the meaning of the phrase was left 'to future administrative and judicial interpretation.'" Avendano, 770 F.3d at 734 (quoting Franklin v. INS, 72 F.3d 571, 572 (8th Cir. 1995)). We have approved the BIA's " 'longstanding general definition' of a crime involving moral turpitude, which include[s] 'acts accompanied by a vicious motive or a corrupt mind.'" Id. (quoting Chanmouny v. Ashcroft, 376 F.3d 810, 814 (8th Cir. 2004)). " [C]rimes that have a specific intent to defraud as an element have always been found to involve moral turpitude." In re Kochlani, 24 I.& N. Dec. 128, 130-31 (BIA 2007); see Bobadilla v. Holder, 679 F.3d 1052, 1057 (8th Cir. 2012) (explaining that offenses that require fraud as an element are categorically crimes involving moral turpitude).

Miranda-Romero argues that § 472 criminalizes both acts requiring a specific intent to defraud and acts without this mens rea. See Bobadilla, 679 F.3d at 1054-56 (explaining that our first step in the crime-involving-moral-turpitude analysis

Page 526

is to apply the " categorical approach" and determine whether an offense is inherently a crime involving moral turpitude). In Miranda-Romero's view, the BIA erred in determining that the statute categorically includes only crimes involving moral turpitude. Thus, the sole issue in this appeal is whether Miranda-Romero's 1993 conviction under § 472 necessarily required a specific intent to defraud and therefore is categorically a crime involving moral turpitude.

Section 472 provides:

Every person who, with intent to defraud another, forges, or counterfeits the seal of this State, the seal of any public officer authorized by law, the seal of any Court of record, or the seal of any corporation, or any other public seal authorized or recognized by the laws of this State, or of any other State, Government, or country, or who falsely makes, forges, or counterfeits any impression purporting to be an impression of any such seal, or who has in his possession any such ...

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