One strange quirk of U.S. immigration court cases is that U.S. Attorney Generals have the ability to pick and choose cases from the Board of Immigration Appeals to make their own decisions on them, something which can have a great impact on case law in the field.
Under the Trump administration, Attorney Generals Sessions and Barr partook in this practice and fuddled with asylum caselaw in Matter of L-E-A and Matter of A-B-. Both of these decisions were thankfully overturned by A.G. Merrick Garland in 2021.
But on December 9th, A.G. Garland announced he would also be utilizing this power by deciding Matter of B-Z-R, a case which also deals with aspects of asylum law. One bar to obtaining asylum protections in the U.S. turns on whether the applicant has been convicted of a “particularly serious crime.” Previously, when this has bar has been assessed for asylum applicants, the mental health of the applicant has not been considered when evaluating the seriousness of previous convictions beyond whatever might have been addressed during the proceedings themselves. See Matter of G-G-S-, 26 I&N Dec. 339 (BIA 2014).
In Matter of B-Z-R, A.G. Garland seeks to reevaluate this issue, indicating that he intends to make mental health considerations a factor in the conviction analysis. However, with the Biden administration’s recent voluntary expansion of the M.P.P. program to include Haitian asylum seekers, it might be best to wait and see what happens here.
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