6th Circuit Court of Appeals Finds Government Bears Burden of Proof on Vacatur of Convictions

Our client, a native and citizen of Lebanon, and most of his immediate family members entered the United States on immigrant visas in 1992 and then became lawful permanent residents. About five years later, he pled guilty to possession of less than twenty-five grams of cocaine in violation of Michigan’s law and the state court sentenced him to one year of probation. The law also stated that “upon fulfillment of the terms and conditions of probation, the court shall discharge the individual and dismiss the proceedings” thus after our client completed his probation, the state court dismissed the proceedings against him.

However, in 2002, the Government charged our client with removability on the basis of the state conviction  as an “alien who at any time after admission has been convicted of a violation of  any law or regulation of a State relating to a controlled substance.” The Immigration Judge found that the Government had proved our client’s removability with clear and convincing evidence and denied the requests for relief from removal.

Our client appealed the Immigration Judge’s adverse decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). While his appeal was pending, the client moved the state court to withdraw his guilty plea. After the state court granted the motion and dismissed the ten-year-old criminal case, we moved the BIA to terminate his removal proceedings. Because the BIA improperly put the burden on our client to prove that the state court’s vacatur of his conviction was not for rehabilitative or immigration reasons, and because the Government failed to bear its burden of proving that the conviction was vacated for rehabilitative or immigration reasons, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals granted our petition for review. The court found that the Board of Immigration Appeals improperly put the burden on our client to prove that the state court’s vacatur of his conviction was not for rehabilitative or immigration reasons and the removal order was vacated.

Read the full decision here: Barakat v. Holder

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