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Martinez v. Sessions

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

June 15, 2018

MARICELA LEYVA MARTINEZ, a/k/a Maricela Martinez, a/k/a Maricelo Leyva, Petitioner,
v.
JEFFERSON B. SESSIONS III, Respondent. CAPITAL AREA IMMIGRANTS' RIGHTS COALITION; MARYLAND OFFICE OF THE PUBLIC DEFENDER; NATIONAL IMMIGRATION PROJECT OF THE NATIONAL LAWYERS GUILD; UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND CAREY IMMIGRATION CLINIC, Amici Supporting Petitioner.

          Argued: December 6, 2017

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

         ARGUED:

          Maureen A. Sweeney, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND CAREY IMMIGRATION CLINIC, Baltimore, Maryland; Adina Bassin Appelbaum, CAPITAL AREA IMMIGRANTS' RIGHTS COALITION, Washington, D.C., for Petitioner.

          Sara J. Bayram, Office of Immigration Litigation, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Respondent.

         ON BRIEF:

          Steven C. Planzer, CASTANEDA PLANZER LLC, Salisbury, Maryland, for Petitioner.

          Chad A. Readler, Acting Assistant Attorney General, Civil Division, M. Jocelyn Lopez Wright, Senior Litigation Counsel, Office of Immigration Litigation, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Respondent.

          Sejal Zota, NATIONAL IMMIGRATION PROJECT OF THE NATIONAL LAWYERS GUILD, Boston, Massachusetts, for Amicus National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild.

          Claudia R. Cubas, CAPITAL AREA IMMIGRANTS' RIGHTS COALITION, Washington, D.C., for Amicus Capital Area Immigrants' Rights Coalition.

          Nadine K. Wettstein, MARYLAND OFFICE OF THE PUBLIC DEFENDER, Rockville, Maryland, for Amicus Maryland Office of the Public Defender.

          Before NIEMEYER, TRAXLER, and KEENAN, Circuit Judges.

          TRAXLER, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         Maricela Martinez was ordered removed from the United States after the Board of Immigration Appeals ("BIA") determined that Martinez's prior convictions for theft were crimes involving moral turpitude. Because not all of the offenses encompassed under the relevant Maryland statute qualify as crimes involving moral turpitude, we grant Martinez's petition for review, vacate the BIA's decision, and remand for consideration of Martinez's application for cancellation of removal.

         I.

         Thirty-five-year-old Maricela Martinez is a native of Mexico; she entered the country illegally 20 years ago. She is the mother of four children, all of whom are citizens of the United States. Between 2007 and 2016, Martinez was convicted three times in Maryland for petty theft. One conviction involved theft of less than $500; the others involved thefts of less than $100 each.

         After her third conviction, Martinez was arrested and detained by immigration officials, who sought to deport her because the convictions amounted to crimes involving moral turpitude ("CIMT") under 8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(2)(A)(i)(I). Although Martinez initially conceded removability, she later obtained counsel and contended that the theft offenses did not qualify as CIMTs and that she was entitled to apply for cancellation of removal.

         An immigration judge concluded that the theft convictions qualified as CIMTs and that Martinez therefore was removable and was not entitled to seek cancellation of removal. The BIA affirmed, relying on its decision in In re Diaz-Lizarraga, 26 I&N Dec. 847 (BIA 2016), to conclude ...


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