A recent immigration ruling from Attorney General William Barr takes aim at illegal alien drunk driving and how it is handled under federal immigration law.
According to the ruling, issued on Friday, multiple drunk driving convictions indicate that a removable alien lacks the “good moral character” needed get special permission to stay in the United States.
The case in question is that of a Mexican national who had been in the United States “without admission or parole since 1997″ and has three kids who are U.S. citizens. “He also has a criminal record,” the decision explains, noting two arrests for assaulting his wife, a public drunkenness charge, and a negligent driving conviction. He was also convicted of drunk driving in 2010 and 2012. He later participated in an alcohol safety program and start attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
DHS began removal efforts against him in 2010, the document explains. He conceded that he was removable and asked to have his deportation canceled under federal law, which, among other things, requires that an immigrant show “good moral character” during the minimum 10-year period in the United States. The ruling explains that cancellation is “a coveted and scarce form of relief” which the attorney general can only issue to 4,000 aliens annually.
In 2016, an immigration judge granted the cancellation. According to the ruling, the judge said that though he was “troubled by [the illegal alien’s] alcohol-related convictions,” they were outweighed by multiple factors including his “rehabilitation efforts.”
The Board of Immigration Appeals, however, disagreed with the ruling and found that the immigrant failed to meet the requirement of good moral character as well as that demonstrating “exceptional and extremely unusual hardship” to a relative stipulated in the statute. The case was then referred for further review by acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker last year.
Upon his review, Attorney General Barr sided with the immigration review board and concluded in a ruling issued Friday that “when assessing an alien’s good moral character under [immigration law], evidence of two or more DUI convictions during the relevant period establishes a rebuttable presumption that the alien lacked good moral character during that time.”
The ruling adds, “An alien’s efforts to reform or rehabilitate himself after multiple DUI convictions are commendable, but they do not themselves demonstrate good moral character during the period that includes the convictions. Absent substantial relevant and credible contrary evidence, multiple DUI convictions require that the immigration judge deny cancellation of removal.”
Barr made the ruling in his role as chief immigration judge, as both the Board of Immigration Appeals and U.S. immigration courts are under the authority of the Department of Justice, rather than the judicial branch. A regulation put forward earlier this year cemented the attorney general’s ability to make binding, precedent-setting rulings on immigration cases like this one.
Drunk driving incidents involving illegal aliens are one of the high-profile public safety issues stemming from America’s illegal immigration crisis. In a single year of apprehensions in 2018, despite the agency’ very limited resources, Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested 80,730 aliens with DUI charges and convictions.