Peguero Vasquez v. Garland, No. 21-6380 (2d Cir. 2023)Annotate this Case
Petitioner petitioned for review of a decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals affirming the finding that he is removable on the ground that he committed a crime involving moral turpitude for which “a sentence of one year or longer may be imposed.” 8 U.S.C. Section 1227(a)(2)(A)(i). The predicate offense, a 2017 conviction for possession of a forged instrument, is a Class A misdemeanor under New York law. In 2019, after his conviction, New York enacted Penal Law Section 70.15(1-a), which lowered the maximum possible sentence for Class A misdemeanors from one year to 364 days. Petitioner asserts that because the statute is retroactive for state law purposes, his prior conviction no longer constitutes a basis for removal because it is not a crime for which “a sentence of one year or longer may be imposed,” as required by the removal statute.
The Second Circuit denied Petitoner’s petition. The court wrote that it declines to give retroactive effect to New York’s modification of its sentencing scheme for purposes of federal immigration law. The removal statute focuses on the historical fact of an alien’s prior conviction and thereby consults the state law applicable at the time of the criminal proceedings, not at the time of the removal proceedings.