Higgins v. Holder
An individual who is convicted of an aggravated felony is not eligible for cancellation of removal or a waiver of inadmissibility, pursuant to 8 United States Code §1229b(a). In April 1987, the petitioner, a citizen of Jamaica, arrived in the U.S. and was admitted as a lawful permanent resident. The petitioner was acquitted of charges of sexual assault of a minor. He was convicted of tampering with a witness, in violation of Connecticut General Statutes §53a-151, because he allegedly instructed the minor child to deny the incident, if the police talked to her. A court sentenced the petitioner to five years in prison. The Connecticut Appellate Court affirmed. In 2009, the Department of Homeland Security charged the petitioner with removability, as an alien convicted of a crime of moral turpitude. At an immigration hearing, the petitioner denied that he had been convicted of an "aggravated felony." The immigration judge found that the petitioner's conviction related to "obstruction of justice" and constituted an "aggravated felony" that made the petitioner ineligible for cancellation of removal and a waiver of inadmissibility. The Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed. The Immigration and Nationality Act defines "aggravated felony" to include "an offense relating to obstruction of justice, perjury or subornation of perjury, or bribery of a witness, for which the term of imprisonment is at least one year." The interpretation of the phrase "relating to obstruction of justice" presents an issue of first impression in the 2nd Circuit. The Connecticut statute includes the actus reus element and the mens rea of an "offense relating to obstruction of justice." The 2nd Circuit found that a conviction under C.G.S. §53a-151 qualifies as an offense "relating to the obstruction of justice." "Because CGS §53a-151 fulfills the elements of the generic offense of 'obstruction of justice,' " wrote the 2nd Circuit, "we conclude that a conviction under CGS §53a-151 is categorically 'an offense relating to obstruction of justice' under 8 U.S.C. §1101(a)(43)." The 2nd Circuit dismissed the petition.