The scope of the United States Supreme Court's review under the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C.S. § 706(2)(A), is narrow. When reviewing an agency action, the Court must assess, among other matters, whether the decision was based on a consideration of the relevant factors and whether there has been a clear error of judgment. That task involves examining the reasons for agency decisions--or, as the case may be, the absence of such reasons.
The U.S. Government initiated deportation proceedings against a resident alien who entered the United States in 1974, pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter in 1988, and pled guilty to a crime involving theft in 2005. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) applied the comparable-grounds approach in deciding whether the alien was allowed to seek relief from deportation under former § 212(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The BIA found that the alien was not allowed to seek § 212(c) relief because he was being deported for committing an aggravated felony involving a crime of violence and the “crime of violence” deportation ground was not comparable to any ground for exclusion, including the one for crimes involving moral turpitude. Thereafter, the resident alien filed an action against respondent U.S. Attorney General, seeking judicial review of the BIA’s decision. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit denied the alien's petition for review.
Was the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) correct in applying the comparable-grounds approach in deciding whether the alien was allowed to seek relief from deportation under the Immigration and Nationality Act?
The Supreme Court found that use of the comparative-grounds approach was arbitrary and capricious and violated the Administrative Procedure Act. According to the Court, the BIA was required to use an approach that was tied to the purposes of the immigration laws or the appropriate operation of the immigration system, and the comparable-grounds approach had no connection to those factors.