Gutierrez-Brizuela v. Lynch, No. 14-9585 (10th Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
Hugo Gutierrez-Brizuela applied for adjustment of status in reliance on the Tenth Circuit's decision in "Padilla-Caldera I" in the period it was valid law. Gutierrez-Brizuela applied for relief during the period after the BIA’s announcement of its contrary interpretation in "Briones" yet before "Padilla-Caldera II" declared "Briones" controlling and "Padilla-Caldera I" effectively overruled. The BIA suggested this factual distinction made all the legal difference. "But we fail to see how. Indeed, the government’s position in this appeal seems to us clearly inconsistent with both the rule and reasoning of De Niz Robles." In 2009 the law expressly gave Gutierrez-Brizuela two options: he could seek an adjustment of status pursuant to "Padilla-Caldera I" or accept a ten-year waiting period outside the country. "Relying on binding circuit precedent, he chose the former path. Yet the BIA now seeks to apply a new law to block that path at a time when it’s too late for Mr. Gutierrez-Brizuela to alter his conduct. Meaning that, if we allowed the BIA to apply Briones here, Mr. Gutierrez-Brizuela would lose the seven years he could’ve spent complying with the BIA’s ten year waiting period and instead have to start that waiting period now. The due process concerns are obvious: when Mr. Gutierrez-Brizuela made his choice, he had no notice of the law the BIA now seeks to apply. And the equal protection problems are obvious too: if the agency were free to change the law retroactively based on shifting political winds, it could use that power to punish politically disfavored groups or individuals for conduct they can no longer alter." This case was remanded back to the BIA for reconsideration of Gutierrez-Brizuela's application based on the law in effect at the time of his application.