F-P-R-, 24 I&N Dec. 681 (BIA 2008)

Cite as 24 I&N Dec. 681 (BIA 2008) Interim Decision #3630
Matter of F-P-R-, Respondent
Decided November 5, 2008
U.S. Department of Justice
Executive Office for Immigration Review
Board of Immigration Appeals
For purposes of determining if an alien’s application for asylum was timely filed within
1 year of arrival in the United States pursuant to section 208(a)(2)(B) of the Immigration and
Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. § 1158(a)(2)(B) (2006), the term “last arrival” in 8 C.F.R.
§ 1208.4(a)(2)(ii) (2008) refers to the alien’s most recent arrival in the United States from
a trip abroad.
FOR RESPONDENT: Judith A. Marty, Esquire, Fullerton, California
BEFORE: Board Panel: FILPPU, PAULEY, and HESS, Board Members.
PAULEY, Board Member:
In a decision dated February 6, 2007, an Immigration Judge granted the
respondent’s application for withholding of removal under section 241(b)(3)
of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. § 1231(b)(3) (2006), but
pretermitted his application for asylum as time barred under section
208(a)(2)(B) of the Act, 8 U.S.C. § 1158(a)(2)(B) (2006), and 8 C.F.R.
§ 1208.4(a)(2)(ii) (2008) because of his failure to file an Application for
Asylum and for Withholding of Removal (Form I-589) within 1 year of his
“last arrival” in the United States. The respondent has appealed from that
decision. The appeal will be sustained.
The respondent is a native and citizen of Mexico who initially arrived in the
United States in 1983 without inspection. Later that year he returned to
Mexico, where he stayed until returning without inspection to the
United States in 1989. The respondent remained in the United States without
lawful status until he returned to Mexico on June 17, 2005, to attend the
funeral of his stepfather. Most recently, he came to the United States on
July 20, 2005, when he was apprehended near the southern border and wasCite as 24 I&N Dec. 681 (BIA 2008) Interim Decision #3630
1 We note that the respondent’s Form I-589 reflects that he arrived in the United States twice
in July 2005, the first time on July 15 and the second on July 20, 2005. However, because
we do not conduct fact-finding on appeal and we do not deem the Immigration Judge’s
findings of fact to be clearly erroneous, we have based our decision on the facts as
determined by the Immigration Judge. See 8 C.F.R. § 1003.1(d)(3)(i), (iv) (2008); see also
Matter of S-H-, 23 I&N Dec. 462 (BIA 2002) (stating that under new regulations the Board
has limited fact-finding ability on appeal, which heightens the need for Immigration Judges
to include in their decisions clear and complete findings of fact that are supported by the
record and are in compliance with controlling law); Matter of Fedorenko, 19 I&N Dec. 57,
74 (BIA 1984) (“[A]ll evidence which is pertinent to determinations made during deportation
proceedings . . . must be adduced in the hearing before the immigration judge. The Board
is an appellate body whose function is to review, not to create, a record.” (footnote omitted)).
placed in removal proceedings.1
The respondent subsequently conceded that
he is removable as charged, and he filed an application for asylum and related
relief with the Immigration Judge on February 8, 2006.
The Immigration Judge received evidence, mainly consisting of the
respondent’s testimony, at the stipulated merits hearings held on July 6, and
July 25, 2006, in accordance with Grava v. INS, 205 F.3d 1177, 1180-81 (9th
Cir. 2000). After giving the parties a final opportunity to submit briefs on the
issues of the respondent’s eligibility for asylum and withholding of removal,
the Immigration Judge issued an oral decision granting the respondent’s
application for withholding of removal, but finding him ineligible for asylum
as a result of his failure to file the Form I-589 within 1 year of his “last arrival”
in the United States, as required by 8 C.F.R. § 1208.4(a)(2)(ii).
With respect to the 1-year filing deadline, the Immigration Judge stated that
“applicants should not be able to reset the asylum clock by taking a short
excursion abroad,” and that “such an interpretation would undermine the
[1-year] deadline’s clear purpose of focusing the asylum process on those who
have recently fled persecution in their home countries.” Thus, the Immigration
Judge calculated the respondent’s 1-year period of eligibility to apply for
asylum from his second arrival in the United States in 1989 instead of his most
recent coming to this country on July 20, 2005. In the absence of any
controlling decisions on the issue from either the United States Court of
Appeals for the Ninth Circuit or the Board, the Immigration Judge
substantially adopted the rationale set forth by the Second Circuit in
Joaquin-Porras v. Gonzales, 435 F.3d 172 (2d Cir. 2006). On March 5, 2006,
the respondent filed a timely appeal challenging the Immigration Judge’s
adverse asylum eligibility determination. The Department of Homeland
Security has not filed a brief on appeal.Cite as 24 I&N Dec. 681 (BIA 2008) Interim Decision #3630
On appeal we must determine the meaning of the phrase “last arrival” in the
8 C.F.R. § 1208.4(a)(2)(ii), which governs an alien’s statutory burden of
proving by clear and convincing evidence that he filed an application for
asylum within 1 year after the date of his arrival in the United States under
section 208(a)(2)(B) of the Act. Specifically, the regulation provides in
pertinent part that “[t]he 1-year period shall be calculated from the date of the
alien’s last arrival in the United States or April 1, 1997, whichever is later.”
When construing the Attorney General’s regulations, we abide by the
canons of construction that generally apply to the interpretation of statutory
texts. See Matter of Artigas, 23 I&N Dec. 99, 100 (BIA 2001) (citing Matter
of Masri, 22 I&N Dec. 1145, 1148 (BIA 1999)). We recognized in Matter of
Artigas that “there is ‘no more persuasive evidence of the purpose of a
[regulation] than the words by which the [Attorney General] undertook to give
expression to [her] wishes.’” Id. (quoting Perry v. Commerce Loan Co., 383
U.S. 392, 400 (1966)). Furthermore, the Board and the Immigration Judges,
which are the adjudicative bodies within the Executive Office for Immigration
Review, “‘must give effect to the unambiguously expressed intent’ of the
Attorney General.” Id. (quoting Chevron, U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources
Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837, 843 (1984)); see also Matter of W-F-,
21 I&N Dec. 503, 506 (BIA 1996).
Accordingly, in ascertaining executive intent, we look to the ordinary
meaning of the words used in the regulation. Cf. Matter of
Rodriguez-Rodriguez, 22 I&N Dec. 991, 993 (BIA 1999) (citing INS
v. Phinpathya, 464 U.S. 183, 189 (1984)). “Arrival” is defined as the “act of
arriving,” and “arrive” is defined as “to come to a certain point in the course
of travel; reach one’s destination” and “to come to a place after traveling.”
The Random House Dictionary of the English Language 83 (unabridged ed.
1973). “Last” is defined as “occurring or coming after all others, as in time,
order, or place” and “most recent, next before the present, latest.” Id. at 809.
These definitions make clear that the words “last arrival” refer to an alien’s
most recent coming or crossing into the United States after having traveled
from somewhere outside of the country. Thus, we conclude that for purposes
of calculating the period of time between the alien’s arrival in the
United States and the date on which an application for asylum was filed
pursuant to section 208(a)(2)(B) of the Act, the term “last arrival” referred to
in the regulation should, subject to a possible narrow exception discussed
subsequently, be given its natural and literal meaning, i.e., the alien’s mostCite as 24 I&N Dec. 681 (BIA 2008) Interim Decision #3630
recent arrival in the United States from a trip abroad. See Matter of Pierre,
14 I&N Dec. 467, 468 (BIA 1973) (setting forth a four-pronged definition of
the term “entry” under former section 101(a)(13) of the Act, 8 U.S.C.
§ 1101(a)(13) (1970)). This construction of the phrase “last arrival” is
consistent with our previous treatment of the concept of “arrival” in the
context of the 1-year filing deadline for asylum applications in Matter of Y-C-,
23 I&N Dec. 286 (BIA 2002), where we recognized that an unaccompanied
minor who entered the United States without inspection had effected an
“arrival” for purposes of calculating the 1-year filing period.
Moreover, the regulation states that the 1-year filing period “shall be
calculated from the date of the alien’s last arrival.” 8 C.F.R. § 1208.4(a)(2)(ii)
(emphasis added). Accordingly, the identification and use of the date of the
alien’s last arrival in the United States for purposes of calculating the 1-year
filing period is mandatory, not discretionary or conditional. See Alabama
v. Bozeman, 533 U.S. 146, 153 (2001) (“‘The word “shall” is ordinarily “the
language of command.”’” (quoting Anderson v. Yungkau, 329 U.S. 482, 485
(1947) (quoting Escoe v. Zerbst, 295 U.S. 490, 493 (1935))); accord Lexecon
Inc. v. Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach, 523 U.S. 26, 35 (1998) (citing
Anderson v. Yungkau, supra). Here, the Immigration Judge erred as a
matter of law when he calculated the 1-year filing period on the basis of the
respondent’s prior arrival in the United States in 1989 instead of the
respondent’s last arrival on July 20, 2005.
In rendering his decision, the Immigration Judge relied on Joaquin-Porras
v. Gonzales, supra, the only published decision to date from the courts of
appeals construing the term “last arrival.” In that case the Second Circuit held
that “the term ‘last arrival in the United States’ should not be read to include
an alien’s return to the United States after a brief trip abroad pursuant to a
parole explicitly permitted by United States immigration authorities.” Id. at
179. While noting that this interpretation “seemed to disregard the words of
the applicable regulation,” the court ultimately concluded that this selective
manner of interpreting “last arrival” “best accords with the purpose of the
statute as a whole.” Id. The Second Circuit based its conclusion principally
on a survey of the legislative history behind the rewriting of section 208 of the
Act by section 604(a) of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant
Responsibility Act of 1996, Division C of Pub. L. No. 104-208, 110 Stat.
3009-546, 3009-690 (“IIRIRA”). Id. at 179-80.
We disagree with Joaquin-Porras v. Gonzales in that we discern no basis
for construing the regulation as not taking into account entries that occurred
after brief absences from the United States. Cf. Matter of Collado, 21 I&N
Dec. 1061 (BIA 1998) (noting the demise of the so-called “Fleuti doctrine” as
a result of the enactment of the IIRIRA). Whatever might be the policy
advantages of the construction adopted by the Second Circuit, and whether orCite as 24 I&N Dec. 681 (BIA 2008) Interim Decision #3630
2 In Matter of Collado, supra, we observed that the Supreme Court’s decision in Rosenberg
v. Fleuti, 374 U.S. 449 (1963), was based on the fact that the definition of “entry” then in
force included the term “intended” such as to support an exception for departures whose
purpose was brief, casual, and innocent.
not the legislative history invoked by the Second Circuit represents an accurate
recapitulation of Congress’s intent when it enacted the 1-year filing period in
1996, that legislative history provides no direct insight into the Attorney
General’s intent in promulgating the clear regulatory text through which
he implemented his delegated authority to administer, interpret, and enforce
the 1-year filing period. Instead, the relevant entries in the Federal Register
constitute the regulatory history underlying the final promulgation of 8 C.F.R.
§ 1208.4(a)(2)(ii). In this regard, we observe that the term “last arrival”
initially appeared in the proposed rule published in the Federal Register on
January 3, 1997, and was subsequently retained without comment or
amendment in the subsequent interim rule published on March 6, 1997, and in
the final rule published on December 6, 2000. See Asylum Procedures,
65 Fed. Reg. 76,121, 72,123 (Dec. 6, 2000); Inspection and Expedited
Removal of Aliens; Detention and Removal of Aliens; Conduct of Removal
Proceedings; Asylum Procedures, 62 Fed. Reg. 10,312, 10,316 (Mar. 6, 1997)
and 62 Fed. Reg. 444, 463 (Jan. 3, 1997) (Supplementary Information). Thus,
the regulatory history does not amplify the meaning of the phrase “last arrival”
conveyed through the ordinary meaning of the words in the regulation.
We understand the concern that appears to underlie the Second Circuit’s
decision in Joaquin-Porras v. Gonzales, supra. Indeed, a literal construction
of the term “last arrival” may have the potential to permit certain aliens to
defeat the purpose of the 1-year asylum filing deadline by making a brief trip
abroad for the sole or principal purpose of evading the time bar and
resuscitating the ability to seek asylum. However, it is not disputed that the
respondent’s trip, although brief, was for the legitimate purpose of attending
a relative’s funeral. Thus, we need not here examine whether the regulation
should be read to embody an implicit exception in a case where it is found that
an alien’s trip abroad was solely or principally intended to overcome the
1-year time bar.2
In light of the above, we will remand the record of proceedings to the
Immigration Judge. Inasmuch as the Immigration Judge determined that the
respondent has met his burden of proof for withholding of removal under
section 241(b)(3) of the Act, it necessarily follows that he has met his burden
of proof for asylum under section 208(a). Compare INS v. Cardoza-Fonseca,
480 U.S. 421 (1987), with INS v. Stevic, 467 U.S. 407 (1984). Thus, the
purpose of our remand is limited to determining whether the respondent merits
asylum in the exercise of discretion, as the Immigration Judge did not makeCite as 24 I&N Dec. 681 (BIA 2008) Interim Decision #3630
any findings in this aspect. See generally Matter of Pula, 19 I&N Dec. 467,
473-75 (BIA 1987) (setting forth factors relevant to a discretionary analysis of
an asylum claim). Accordingly, the respondent’s appeal will be sustained and
the record will be remanded.
ORDER: The respondent’s appeal is sustained.
FURTHER ORDER: The record is remanded to the Immigration Judge
for further proceedings consistent with the foregoing opinion and for the entry
of a new decision.