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Espinal-Andrades v. Holder

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

January 22, 2015

SANDRA YAMILETH ESPINAL-ANDRADES, Petitioner,
v.
ERIC H. HOLDER, JR., Attorney General, Respondent

Argued October 30, 2014.

Page 164

On Petition for Review of an Order of the Board of Immigration Appeals.

ARGUED:

Jorge Enrique Artieda, JORGE E. ARTIEDA LAW OFFICE PC, Falls Church, Virginia, for Petitioner.

Colin James Tucker, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Respondent.

ON BRIEF:

Stuart F. Delery, Assistant Attorney General, Civil Division, Anthony W. Norwood, Senior Litigation Counsel, Office of Immigration Litigation, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Respondent.

Before SHEDD, AGEE, and WYNN, Circuit Judges. Judge Wynn wrote the opinion, in which Judge Shedd and Judge Agee concurred.

OPINION

Page 165

WYNN, Circuit Judge:

Petitioner Sandra Yamileth Espinal-Andrades, a lawful permanent resident, pled guilty to arson under Maryland's arson-in-the-first-degree statute. At the heart of this appeal is whether that conviction qualifies as an aggravated felony under the Immigration and Nationality Act (" INA" ). We agree with the immigration judge and Board of Immigration Appeals (" BIA" ) that it does and, for the reasons explained below, deny Espinal's petition.

I.

Espinal immigrated to the United States from El Salvador in 1999 and became a lawful permanent resident that same year. On August 27, 2009, a Maryland grand jury indicted her on four counts: (1) first degree arson, (2) second degree arson, (3) first degree malicious burning of property greater than $1,000, and (4) reckless endangerment. On January 27, 2010, Espinal entered a plea pursuant to N. Carolina v. Alford, 400 U.S. 25, 91 S.Ct. 160, 27 L.Ed.2d 162 (1970), on the first degree arson count, and the state dropped the remaining three charges. She was sentenced to 360 days in prison.

Page 166

On March 12, 2013, the Department of Homeland Security (" DHS" ) issued Espinal a Notice to Appear (" Notice" ). The Notice made several factual allegations concerning Espinal's citizenship status, and she denied each one. Espinal also denied the charge that she was subject to removal under 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii), contesting DHS's assertion that her first degree arson conviction qualified as an aggravated felony.

On May 9, 2013, an immigration judge ruled that all of DHS's factual allegations in the Notice were true, and Espinal raised no objections to this ruling. Espinal did, however, object to the classification of her state arson charge as an aggravated felony under 8 U.S.C. ยง 1101(a)(43)(E), which defines " aggravated felony" as, inter alia, " an ...


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