Definition of Crime of Violence for Illegal Reentry Sentencing is Unconstitutionally Vague

By Sarah Flinn Relying on the Supreme Court’s decision in Johnson v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 2551 (2015), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recently held that the federal definition of “crime of violence” as defined in 18 U.S.C. § 16(b) is unconstitutionally vague. United States v. Vivas-Ceja, 808 F.3d 719, 720 (7th Cir. 2015). Raul Vivas-Ceja, a citizen of Mexico, has been removed from the United States on three occasions and also has numerous convictions of varying severity. Id. at 720-21. Subsequent to Mr. Vivas-Ceja’s arrest at an airport in Madison, Wisconsin on [...]

BIA creates rebuttable presumption for cancellation of removal applicants

By Alex Sheppard On October 28, 2015, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) decided the companion cases Matter of Garcia-Ramirez, 26 I&N Dec. 674 (BIA 2015), and Matter of Castrejon-Colino, 26 I&N Dec. 667 (BIA 2015), both of which addressed the burden of proof that rests on cancellation of removal applicants who are demonstrating continuous physical presence, a requirement for non-lawful permanent residents seeking this form of relief from removal. In the decisions, the BIA held that “[W]here an alien had the right to appear before an Immigration Judge, evidence that photographs [...]

Immigration detention populations appear to have dropped in FY 14 & FY 15

The number of migrants sitting behind barbed wire appears to have dropped in fiscal years 2014 and 2015, but DHS’s reporting has become so opaque that it is hard to be sure. For years, I have tracked ICE’s civil immigration detention population using annual reports issued by DHS. Those reports were posted on the DHS website for anyone with an internet connection to download and read. I regularly did so and often wrote about these trends in my scholarly articles as well as here on That has not been the case with immigration detention statistics for fiscal years 2014 or 2015. [...]

Categorical approach returns to Supreme Court

By Nicholas Anderson and Linus Chan The Supreme Court’s decision on Tuesday to grant cert in the Texas v. United States case has gotten quite a bit of deserved attention among the media, pundits, and immigration advocates and scholars. However, crimmigration nerds should be paying attention to a different Supreme Court cert. grant on the same day.  Despite not featuring an immigrant or even immigration law directly, United States v. Mathis, 786 F.3d 1068 (8th Cir. 2015) (docket number 15-6092), will have a significant impact on anyone facing removal from the United States based on a [...]

ICE’s Failure and Complicity in Immigration Detention Inspections

By Thamys Gaertner In October, the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC), a leading advocacy group based in Chicago, released a detailed report on immigration detention center contracts that illustrates just how inadequate the ICE detention facility inspections are after promises and attempts by the Obama administration to improve the oversight process. President Obama established the Office of Detention Oversight (ODO) within ICE to inspect immigration detention facilities and investigate the deaths of individuals in ICE custody. Despite these efforts, the immigration detention [...]

Fear-mongering and immigration policymaking

By Emily Torstveit Ngara In announcing his run for President of the United States, Donald Trump brought anti-immigrant rhetoric back into the national spotlight by proclaiming that “[w]hen Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best...They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” Trump’s vitriol is nothing new. Throughout the history of U.S. immigration, the same themes recur in cycles. One prominent theme is “immigrants are immoral, dangerous criminals.” This rhetoric does more than promote a hostile environment [...]

9th Circuit: Physical Presence Stops Accruing Upon Receipt of Notice to Appear

By Sarah Flinn A recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit followed the trend set by the Second, Fourth, Sixth, and Seventh Circuits in determining that continuous physical presence for purposes of cancellation of removal stops accruing when the petitioner receives a Notice to Appear (NTA), regardless of whether the notice includes a date and location for the removal hearing. Moscoso-Castellanos v. Lynch, No. 12-72693, 2015 WL 5933279, at *3 (9th Cir. Oct. 13, 2015). Jorge Mario Moscoso-Castellanos, a native and citizen of Guatemala, arrived in the United States [...]

Training crimmigration lawyers

The holidays are behind us, grades have been submitted, and another semester began yesterday. This time around I’m teaching Crimmigration Law at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. Built around the developing convergence of criminal law and immigration law that readers know so well, this experiential seminar exposes students to the impact of criminal activity on a migrant’s ability to remain in the United States, how the criminal justice system takes into account immigration status, and how law enforcement tactics make it increasingly difficult to discern criminal [...]