Baez-Sanchez v. Sessions, No. 16-3784 (7th Cir. 2017)

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Justia Opinion Summary

In 2014, the Seventh Circuit held that the Attorney General has authority under 8 U.S.C. 1182(d)(3)(A)(ii) to waive an alien’s inadmissibility and to halt removal temporarily while the alien requests a U visa. In Sanchez’s case, the Board of Immigration Appeals held that IJs lack authority to grant such requests. The Seventh Circuit vacated and remanded. Delegation from the Attorney General to immigration judges is a matter of regulation; 8 C.F.R. 1003.10(a) states that “[i]mmigration judges shall act as the Attorney General’s delegates in the cases that come before them.” Disagreeing with the Third Circuit and the Attorney General, the Seventh Circuit held that IJs may exercise the Attorney General’s powers over immigration. On remand, the Board may consider whether 6 U.S.C. 271(b) and 557 transfer to the Secretary of Homeland Security all of the Attorney General’s discretionary powers under the immigration laws and may also address whether the power to grant a waiver of inadmissibility may be exercised only in favor of an alien who has yet to enter the United States. The Board must address and resolve those essential issues before the court can consider whether the disposition lies within the scope of the agency’s discretion.

This opinion or order relates to an opinion or order originally issued on July 10, 2017.

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In the United States Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit ____________________ No. 16 3784 JORGE BAEZ SANCHEZ, Petitioner, v. JEFFERSON B. SESSIONS III, Attorney General of the United States, Respondent. ____________________ Petition for Review of a Decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals. No. A206 017 181. ____________________ ARGUED SEPTEMBER 6, 2017 — DECIDED OCTOBER 6, 2017 ____________________ Before BAUER, EASTERBROOK, and HAMILTON, Circuit Judges. EASTERBROOK, Circuit Judge. This proceeding begins where L.D.G. v. Holder, 744 F.3d 1022 (7th Cir. 2014), ends. We held in LDG that the Attorney General has authority un der 8 U.S.C. §1182(d)(3)(A)(ii) to waive an alien’s inadmissi bility—and thus to halt removal temporarily—while the al 2 No. 16 3784 ien requests a U visa from the Department of Homeland Se curity. After Jorge Baez Sanchez requested that relief from an immigration judge, however, the Board of Immigration Ap peals held that IJs lack authority to grant such requests. LDG addressed the question whether the Attorney Gen eral has the authority to waive the inadmissibility of an alien seeking a U visa. We assumed that, in removal proceedings, IJs may exercise all of the Attorney General’s discretionary powers over immigration. The panel did not justify that as sumption, because the parties had not doubted its correct ness. But after LDG the Board concluded that the assumption is mistaken. In re Khan, 26 I&N Dec. 797 (2016), holds that IJs have only such powers as have been delegated and that the power to waive an alien’s inadmissibility during proceedings seeking U visas is not among them. The Third Circuit has agreed with that conclusion. Sunday v. Attorney General, 832 F.3d 211 (3d Cir. 2016). We must decide in this case whether to follow Sunday and Khan. Delegation from the Attorney General to immigration judges is a matter of regulation, and arguably pertinent reg ulations are scattered through Title 8 of the Code of Federal Regulations. The BIA in Khan observed, correctly, that the panel in LDG had not mentioned 8 C.F.R. §§ 235.2(d), 1235.2(d), which omit any delegation to IJs of the power to waive an alien’s admissibility. And that’s true, for those regu lations concern the powers of District Directors rather than the powers of IJs. The principal regulation that does cover IJs’ authority is 8 C.F.R. §1003.10, which provides in part: (a) Appointment. The immigration judges are attorneys whom the Attorney General appoints as administrative judges within the Office of the Chief Immigration Judge to conduct specified classes of proceedings, including hearings under section 240 of No. 16 3784 3 the [Immigration and Nationality] Act. Immigration judges shall act as the Attorney General’s delegates in the cases that come be fore them. (b) Powers and duties. In conducting hearings under section 240 of the Act and such other proceedings the Attorney General may assign to them, immigration judges shall exercise the powers and duties delegated to them by the Act and by the Attorney General through regulation. In deciding the individual cases be fore them, and subject to the applicable governing standards, immigration judges shall exercise their independent judgment and discretion and may take any action consistent with their au thorities under the Act and regulations that is appropriate and necessary for the disposition of such cases. Immigration judges shall administer oaths, receive evidence, and interrogate, exam ine, and cross examine aliens and any witnesses. Subject to §§ 1003.35 and 1287.4 of this chapter, they may issue administra tive subpoenas for the attendance of witnesses and the presenta tion of evidence. In all cases, immigration judges shall seek to re solve the questions before them in a timely and impartial man ner consistent with the Act and regulations. The Attorney General’s brief in this court observes that §1003.10(b) does not delegate to IJs any power to waive an alien’s inadmissibility. Sure enough, it doesn’t. But §1003.10(a) does. It says that “[i]mmigration judges shall act as the Attorney General’s delegates in the cases that come before them.” This sounds like a declaration that IJs may ex ercise all of the Attorney General’s powers “in the cases that come before them”, unless some other regulation limits that general delegation. The BIA in Khan did not identify any provision that subtracts from the delegation in §1003.10(a). Nor did the Third Circuit in Sunday. Indeed, neither the BIA nor the Third Circuit cited §1003.10(a). We therefore adhere to the view of LDG that IJs may exercise the Attorney Gen eral’s powers over immigration. 4 No. 16 3784 Perhaps anticipating that we would reach this conclu sion, the Attorney General’s brief makes a much broader ar gument in defense of the BIA’s decision. The brief contends that the Attorney General himself has no authority to grant waivers of inadmissibility to aliens seeking U visas—and that, if the Attorney General does possess this authority, it may be used only with respect to aliens who seek that relief before entering the United States. (Baez Sanchez was inside our borders when he sought the waiver.) The first of these arguments rests on 6 U.S.C. §§ 271(b) and 557, which the Attorney General reads as transferring to the Secretary of Homeland Security all of the Attorney Gen eral’s discretionary powers under the immigration laws. There are two problems with this contention. First, §271(b) transfers only a particular set of powers, and waivers of inadmissibility are not on its list. Section 557 does not independently transfer any powers; instead it de pends for its effect on other statutes, regulations, and reor ganization plans. Although the Department of Homeland Security is principally responsible for administering the im migration laws, whether the statutory power to waive an al ien’s inadmissibility belongs exclusively to the Secretary of Homeland Security depends on statutes, regulations, and reorganization plans that the briefs do not address. Second, the Board of Immigration Appeals did not rely on §§ 271(b) or 557 in either Khan or its decision with respect to Baez Sanchez. Instead the BIA assumed that the power to waive an alien’s inadmissibility belongs to the Attorney Gen eral. It is a fundamental principle of administrative law that the validity of an agency’s decision depends on the agency’s reasoning. See SEC v. Chenery Corp., 318 U.S. 80, 87–88 (1943). No. 16 3784 5 Because the BIA has not made anything of §271(b), §557, or any law, regulation, or reorganization plan that those two statutes might implement, we cannot do so either. The sub ject is open on remand, but it is not a ground on which the current decision may be enforced. The remaining contention—that the power to grant a waiver of inadmissibility may be exercised only in favor of an alien who has yet to enter the United States—was at least hinted at by the Board. But the BIA did not rest its decision on this ground. Immigration law has historically applied at least some rules about “admissibility” to aliens already in the United States, see In re Menendez, 12 I&N Dec. 291, 292 (1967); In re Sanchez Sosa, 25 I&N Dec. 807 (2012), and the Secretary of Homeland Security seems to believe that he has the authority to grant waivers of inadmissibility under §1182(d)(3)(A)(ii) to aliens in the United States. See 8 C.F.R. §212.17. If the Secretary can do this, why not the Attorney General? Perhaps neither official can do so, but Chenery pre vents us from pursuing that question. It should be clear from what we have said that the par ties’ arguments about the effects of Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837 (1984), and Auer v. Robbins, 519 U.S. 452 (1997), are premature. First the Board must address and resolve the essential issues; only then can we consider whether the disposition lies within the scope of the agency’s discretion. The Board is free to address all of these matters on re mand, as it is also free to decide whether to exercise in favor of, or against, Baez Sanchez whatever discretion the Attor ney General possesses. 6 No. 16 3784 The petition for review is granted, the Board’s decision is vacated, and the matter is remanded for proceedings con sistent with this opinion.

Primary Holding

Seventh Circuit rejects Board of Immigration Appeals holding that IJs lack authority to waive inadmissibility and temporarily halt removal under 8 U.S.C. 1182(d)(3)(A)(ii).

Facts

Powers Granted by A. G. to IJ.

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