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CA9 on Reliance, Fault, Adjustment of Status: Peters v. Barr

April 02, 2020 (1 min read)

Peters v. Barr

"For nearly 14 years, Patricia Audrey Peters has been stuck in what can only be described as a bureaucratic nightmare. In 2006, her lawyer failed to file the paperwork necessary to obtain an extension of her lawful immigration status. At each stage of the lengthy proceedings below, immigration authorities have ruled that, as a result of her lawyer’s mistake, Peters lost her eligibility to become a lawful permanent resident of the United States. We are asked to decide whether the regulation supporting that ruling is consistent with the Immigration and Nationality Act. ... When a non-citizen’s failure to maintain lawful status results from her reasonable reliance on the assistance of counsel, nothing more is needed to show that the failure has occurred “through no fault of [her] own.” ... Resolution of this appeal does not require us to declare the regulation invalid in its entirety. It is enough to hold, as we do today, that 8 C.F.R. § 1245.1(d)(2)(i) is invalid to the extent it excludes reasonable reliance on the assistance of counsel from the circumstances covered by the phrase “other than through no fault of his own.” ... She remains eligible for adjustment of status because her failure to maintain lawful status continuously since entering the United States occurred through no fault of her own. We grant Peters’s petition for review and remand the case to the BIA so that it may address in the first instance the alternative ground on which the IJ denied Peters’s application."

[Hats off to Jason A. Orr (argued), O’Melveny & Myers LLP!]