Baez-Sanchez v. Barr, No. 19-1642 (7th Cir. 2020)

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Justia Opinion Summary

Baez-Sanchez, a citizen of Mexico, is removable. His conviction for aggravated ba]ery of a police officer renders him inadmissible, 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(2)(A)(i)(I). He applied for a U visa, which is available to some admissible aliens who have been victims of crime in this country. An IJ granted a waiver of inadmissibility, 8 U.S.C. 1182(d)(3)(A)(ii). The BIA remanded with instructions to consider an additional issue. The IJ did so and reaffirmed. The BIA then concluded that the power to waive inadmissibility belongs to the Attorney General alone and may not be exercised by immigration judges. The Seventh Circuit held that 8 C.F.R. 1003.10(a) permits IJs to exercise all of the Attorney General’s powers, except those expressly reserved by some other regulation. The BIA concluded that the court's decision was incorrect and did not consider the issues remanded by the court. Baez-Sanchez filed another petition for review.

The Seventh Circuit vacated, stating that it had “never before encountered defiance of a remand order.” Article III judicial power is not subject to disapproval or revision by another branch of government. The Attorney General, the Secretary, and the BIA are free to maintain, in another case, that the decision was mistaken but they are not free to disregard a mandate in the very case making the decision. An immigration judge has ruled in favor of Baez-Sanchez; all issues have been resolved. Baez-Sanchez may seek a U visa.

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In the United States Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit ____________________ No. 19-1642 JORGE BAEZ-SANCHEZ, Petitioner, v. WILLIAM P. BARR, Attorney General of the United States, Respondent. ____________________ Petition for Review of a Decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals. No. A206 017 181. ____________________ ARGUED JANUARY 15, 2020 — DECIDED JANUARY 23, 2020 ____________________ Before BAUER, EASTERBROOK, and HAMILTON, Circuit Judges. EASTERBROOK, Circuit Judge. Jorge Baez-Sanchez, a citizen of Mexico, is removable as a criminal alien. His conviction for aggravated ba]ery of a police o cer renders him inadmissible. 8 U.S.C. §1182(a)(2)(A)(i)(I). He applied to the Department of Homeland Security for a U visa, which would allow him to remain in the United States. The U visa is available to some admissible aliens who have been victims of 2 No. 19-1642 crime in this country. Baez-Sanchez asked the immigration judge assigned to his case to grant him a waiver of inadmissibility, which would allow the Department of Homeland Security to rule favorably on his visa application. A statute, 8 U.S.C. §1182(d)(3)(A)(ii), permits the A]orney General to waive an alien’s inadmissibility. Exercising that authority, an immigration judge twice granted the request for waiver. After the initial grant, the Board of Immigration Appeals remanded with instructions to consider an additional issue. The immigration judge did so and rea rmed her decision. On appeal to the Board, the Department of Homeland Security contended that the immigration judge erred in nding that Baez-Sanchez had shown the extraordinary circumstances needed to justify a waiver and had abused her discretion in light of Baez-Sanchez’s criminal history and other negative equities. The Board did not address either contention. Instead, relying on Ma6er of Khan, 26 I&N Dec. 797 (BIA 2016), the Board concluded that the power to waive inadmissibility belongs to the A]orney General alone and may not be exercised by immigration judges. On petition for review, we held that 8 C.F.R. §1003.10(a) permits immigration judges to exercise all of the A]orney General’s powers, except those expressly reserved by some other regulation. Baez-Sanchez v. Sessions, 872 F.3d 854 (7th Cir. 2017). No other regulation withdraws from immigration judges the power under §1182(d)(3)(A)(ii), which means that the BIA erred. See also L.D.G. v. Holder, 744 F.3d 1022 (7th Cir. 2014). Because the Board had not addressed any other question, principles of administrative law meant that we could not do so either. See SEC v. Chenery Corp., 318 U.S. 80, 87–88 (1943). No. 19-1642 3 We remanded with instructions to consider two possibilities that the A]orney General had raised in defense of the Board’s decision: rst, that some statute, regulation, or reorganization plan transferred to the Secretary the A]orney General’s power to waive inadmissibility; second, that the power to waive inadmissibility may be exercised only in favor of aliens who apply from outside the United States. 872 F.3d at 856–57. We added that the Board also (or perhaps instead) could “decide whether to exercise in favor of, or against, Baez-Sanchez whatever discretion the A]orney General possesses.” Id. at 857. What happened next beggars belief. The Board of Immigration Appeals wrote, on the basis of a footnote in a le]er the A]orney General issued after our opinion, that our decision is incorrect. Instead of addressing the issues we speci ed, the Board repeated a theme of its prior decision that the Secretary has the sole power to issue U visas and therefore should have the sole power to decide whether to waive inadmissibility. The Board did not rely on any statute, regulation, or reorganization plan transferring the waiver power under §1182(d)(3)(A)(ii) from the A]orney General to the Secretary. Nor did the Board discuss whether only aliens outside the United States may apply for relief under §1182(d)(3)(A)(ii). Likewise the Board did not consider whether Baez-Sanchez is entitled to a favorable exercise of whatever discretion the A]orney General retains. In sum, the Board atly refused to implement our decision. BaezSanchez has led a second petition for review. We have never before encountered de ance of a remand order, and we hope never to see it again. Members of the Board must count themselves lucky that Baez-Sanchez has 4 No. 19-1642 not asked us to hold them in contempt, with all the consequences that possibility entails. The Board seemed to think that we had issued an advisory opinion, and that faced with a con ict between our views and those of the A]orney General it should follow the la]er. Yet it should not be necessary to remind the Board, all of whose members are lawyers, that the “judicial Power” under Article III of the Constitution is one to make conclusive decisions, not subject to disapproval or revision by another branch of government. See, e.g., Plaut v. Spendthrift Farm, Inc., 514 U.S. 211 (1995). We acted under a statutory grant of authority to review the Board’s decisions. 8 U.S.C. §1252(a)(1). Once we reached a conclusion, both the Constitution and the statute required the Board to implement it. A judicial decision does not require the Executive Branch to abandon its views about what the law provides, for the doctrine of o ensive non-mutual issue preclusion does not apply to the United States. United States v. Mendoza, 464 U.S. 154 (1984). The A]orney General, the Secretary, and the Board are free to maintain, in some other case, that our decision is mistaken—though it has been followed elsewhere, see Meridor v. A6orney General, 891 F.3d 1302, 1307 & n.8 (11th Cir. 2018). But they are not free to disregard our mandate in the very case making the decision. That much, at least, is well established, not only in Plaut but also in many other cases. See, e.g., United States v. Stau er Chemical Co., 464 U.S. 165 (1984). The Solicitor General did not ask the Supreme Court to review our decision, and the Department of Justice is bound by it. The A]orney General’s brief in this court does not defend the Board’s decision—but neither does it confess error. No. 19-1642 5 Instead it asks us to remand so that the Board may “address in an authoritative decision whether an immigration judge may adjudicate an application for a nonimmigrant waiver under 8 U.S.C. §1182(d)(3)(A)(ii) in removal proceedings.” The request is bizarre. We have already held that immigration judges do possess this power, if the A]orney General himself retains it. We directed the Board to consider whether the power has been transferred by statute, regulation, or reorganization plan to the Secretary of Homeland Security. The Board chose not to address that question, and we are hardly going to remand so that the Board can write another opinion about whether we erred in construing 8 C.F.R. §1003.10(a). That’s water under the bridge. The A]orney General contends that a new decision by the Board could be entitled to deference under Kisor v. Wilkie, 139 S. Ct. 2400 (2019), but we held that the regulation is unambiguous. An agency is entitled to reinterpret an ambiguous regulation, see National Cable & Telecommunications Association v. Brand X Internet Services, 545 U.S. 967 (2005), but cannot rewrite an unambiguous one through the guise of interpretation. Change requires rulemaking. The only remaining question is what should happen next. After concluding that an administrative decision is awed, a court of appeals normally must remand to the agency. See, e.g., Negusie v. Holder, 555 U.S. 511 (2009); Gonzales v. Thomas, 547 U.S. 183 (2006); INS v. Orlando Ventura, 537 U.S. 12 (2002). Yet we have already remanded, only to be met by obduracy. The remand rule is designed to a ord the agency an opportunity to have its say on an issue, a say that may re ect expertise and could be entitled to judicial deference. The Board had that opportunity and disdained it. Another remand would do li]le beside give the Board a free 6 No. 19-1642 pass for its e rontery, while delaying the alien’s entitlement to a nal decision. That’s not the goal of the remand rule. Baez-Sanchez has waited long enough. We deem all of the legal questions se]led. For the purpose of this proceeding, at least, the A]orney General retains his power to grant waivers of inadmissibility, and immigration judges may exercise that power on the A]orney General’s behalf. An immigration judge has ruled in favor of Baez-Sanchez. If the Department of Justice were contending that the immigration judge had abused her discretion, then we would remand to the Board to address that subject. But the A]orney General’s brief in this court does not ask for a remand on the propriety of granting a waiver to BaezSanchez, in particular. The brief the Department of Homeland Security submi]ed to the Board on remand similarly does not contend that the immigration judge erred, if immigration judges possess the waiver power. All of the issues in this proceeding therefore have been nally resolved, and there is nothing more for the Board to do. The petition for review is granted, and the Board’s decision is vacated. This leaves the immigration judge’s decision in force. The Executive Branch must honor that decision, which grants Baez-Sanchez a waiver of inadmissibility so that he may seek a U visa from the Department of Homeland Security.
Primary Holding
Seventh Circuit reprimands the Board of Immigration Appeals for disregarding the court's holding that immigration judges may exercise the Attorney General's authority to waive inadmissibility.

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