Rodriguez-Contreras v. Sessions, No. 17-1335 (7th Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
After his conviction for a felony in Illinois, Rodriguez-Contreras, a lawful U.S. permanent resident, was found in possession of a weapon and was convicted under 720 ILCS 5/24–1.1(a). The Board of Immigration Appeals concluded that he was removable as an alien convicted of an “aggravated felony,” 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(43); violation of 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1), which bars anyone convicted of a felony from possessing a firearm, is an aggravated felony. The Seventh Circuit remanded. The BIA did not address whether the substantive elements of the state offense match those of the federal law, which defines "firearm" as “any weapon … designed to … expel a projectile by the action of an explosive.” Compressed air is not an explosive, so pneumatic weapons are not “firearms.” Illinois law defines a firearm as “any device ... designed to expel a projectile ... by the action of an explosion, expansion of gas or escape of gas.” Illinois law is broader than the federal law. The court rejected an argument that the Illinois statute is “divisible” and permits judges to determine which statutory provision was involved. Illinois has a single crime of weapon possession by a felon, with multiple ways of committing that crime. A definitional clause does not create a separate crime. Federal law does not foreclose Rodriguez-Contreras’ obtaining discretionary relief from removal. In exercising discretion the BIA may consider that Rodriguez-Contreras possessed a weapon that is subject to both state and federal prohibitions.