Nijhawan v. Holder Decided

March 4, 2009

Whether an immigration judge can engage in a wide-ranging inquiry to determine whether a prior conviction counts as an aggravated felony for deportation purposes or is instead limited to considering the elements of the crime. DECIDED

Under immigration law, an alien convicted of an "aggravated felony" is deportable. The law also provides that a conviction for fraud in excess of $10,000 is an "aggravated felony." The question in this case is whether an immigration judge in removal proceedings can conduct a wide-ranging inquiry to determine whether the alien's fraud exceeded $10,000 if the fraud statute at issue does not contain a minimum amount as an element of the crime. In a series of cases, the Supreme Court has warned of the dangers of allowing relitigation of the underlying facts in subsequent proceedings and has instead insisted that that the elements of the crime should generally determine what, if any, collateral consequences attach to a conviction. The amicus brief submitted by the ACLU and other groups urges the Court to follow that customary rule in this context.

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