ILANA DIAMOND ROVNER, Circuit Judge.
Two of the four petitions for review before us today present a common question of law — whether Elston Henry and Nikola Akrap, both of whom are subject to final administrative orders of deportation resulting from narcotics convictions, may seek to reopen their previously-denied applications for a discretionary waiver of deportation under section 212(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act ("INA"), 8 U.S.C. § 1182(c), to present evidence of changed circumstances. The Board of Immigration Appeals (the "Board" or "BIA") said no as a matter of law because an alien can no longer satisfy section 212(c)'s lawful permanent residency requirement after a final order of deportation has been entered. The circuits have disagreed in reviewing this interpretation of the statute, and we align ourselves today with those that have rejected it. We accordingly grant two of the petitions for review and remand each case to the Board for further proceedings.
A. Elston A. Henry
Henry is a native and citizen of Antigua, West Indies who was admitted into the United States as a lawful permanent resident on August 6, 1976. Almost ten years later, on April 21, 1986, Henry was convicted by a jury of distributing less than ten grams of a substance containing cocaine, a felony under Illinois law. He was sentenced to a short period of work release and four years probation. The judge also imposed a fine and required Henry to resume paying child support.
Before Henry's probation was revoked, however, the Immigration and Naturalization
After retaining new counsel, Henry filed two motions to reopen his section 212(c) application pursuant to 8 C.F.R. § 3.2.
Henry filed a second motion to reopen on June 5, 1992, this time attempting to supplement his section 212(c) application with facts that arose after the first motion had been filed. Henry asked the Board to consider that his father recently had died, that his mother and sister had emigrated from Antigua to the United States, and that his mother had cancer. Henry argued that he retained eligibility to supplement his application because his appeal of the Board's final order of deportation was still pending here. The Board this time denied Henry's motion solely on the ground that he was statutorily ineligible to seek section 212(c) relief. The Board concluded that a final order of deportation had been entered December 7, 1990, when it dismissed Henry's appeal of the IJ's denial of section 212(c) relief, and that the finality of the deportation order was unaffected by Henry's petition for review of that order. Henry then petitioned for review of this final denial (No. 92-2801), which we address in Part II. B.
B. Nikola Akrap
Akrap, meanwhile, became subject to a final administrative deportation order on July 2, 1991, and we denied a petition for review of that order on June 26, 1992. Akrap v. INS, 966 F.2d 267 (7th Cir.1992).
Akrap also filed two motions to reopen. The first, submitted on August 2, 1991, requested that the Board consider supplemental evidence relating to the deteriorating health of Akrap's father and to the political unrest in Yugoslavia and Croatia. The Board denied the motion, finding that Akrap had become statutorily ineligible for section 212(c) relief when the Board entered its final order of deportation. Because Akrap did not petition for review of that denial, it is not before us.
We have jurisdiction over all four petitions for review pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1105a(a)(1).
A. Denial of Henry's Request for Section 212(c) Relief
In his first petition, Henry challenges the Board's dismissal of his appeal of the IJ's denial of a discretionary waiver of deportation under section 212(c). Henry specifically contests the Board's requirement that he show "unusual or outstanding equities." We review the Board's decision for an abuse of discretion; we may reverse only if the decision "`was made without a rational explanation, ... inexplicably departed from established policies, or rested on an impermissible basis.'" Cortes-Castillo v. INS, 997 F.2d 1199, 1203 (7th Cir.1993) (quoting Espinoza v. INS, 991 F.2d 1294, 1297 (7th Cir.1993)); see also Akinyemi v. INS, 969 F.2d 285, 288 (7th Cir.1992). Based on the evidence of record from Henry's deportation hearing, the Board did not abuse its discretion in denying Henry's application for a waiver of deportation.
In considering a section 212(c) application, the Board must balance "the social and humane considerations in the alien's favor against any adverse factors that demonstrate his or her undesirability as a permanent resident in the United States." Cortes-Castillo, 997 F.2d at 1202; see also Akinyemi, 969 F.2d at 288; Cordoba-Chaves v. INS, 946 F.2d 1244, 1247 (7th Cir.1991). The Board's now familiar decision in In re Marin, 16 I. & N. Dec. 581 (BIA 1978), guides our analysis of the relevant factors. As we reiterated in Cortes-Castillo:
997 F.2d at 1202; see also Akinyemi, 969 F.2d at 288; Cordoba-Chaves, 946 F.2d at 1247.
The Board must review the applicant's evidence in light of these factors and provide a reasoned explanation for its discretionary decision, demonstrating that it considered the evidence supporting the application and enabling "`a reviewing court to perceive that it has heard and thought and not merely reacted.'" Vergara-Molina v. INS, 956 F.2d 682, 685 (7th Cir.1992) (quoting Becerra-Jimenez v. INS, 829 F.2d 996, 1000 (10th Cir.1987)); see also Cortes-Castillo, 997 F.2d at 1203. The Board satisfied its obligations here.
After reviewing Henry's evidence in support of his application, the Board agreed with the IJ that Henry did not merit a waiver of deportation. In light of the seriousness of Henry's cocaine offense and his overall criminal record, the Board required Henry to show "unusual or outstanding equities" to justify relief. The Board observed:
(Henry App. Ex. 1, at 3-4.) The Board thus offered a rational explanation for its decision and did not depart from established policies or rest its decision on an impermissible basis. See Cortes-Castillo, 997 F.2d at 1203. Indeed, Henry's primary challenge to the Board's discretionary decision goes not to the result of its weighing process but to the Board's requirement that he show "unusual or outstanding equities." Yet we have consistently upheld such a requirement where deportability is based on a serious drug offense. See, e.g., id. at 1202-03; Akinyemi, 969 F.2d at 288-89; Cordoba-Chaves, 946 F.2d at 1247, 1249; see also Nunez-Pena v. INS, 956 F.2d 223, 225 (10th Cir.1992). The Board therefore did not abuse its discretion in requiring Henry to show unusual or outstanding equities, or in finding that he failed to do so. See, e.g., Chavez-Arreaga v. INS, 952 F.2d 952, 953-54 (7th Cir.1991).
B. Statutory Eligibility to Reopen Section 212(c) Applications
Because Henry's petition for review in appeal No. 92-2801 and Akrap's petition in appeal No. 92-3104 present a common question, we consider those petitions together. Both Henry and Akrap maintain that they were eligible to reopen their section 212(c) applications even after the Board had entered final orders of deportation. The Board disagreed, holding that their status as lawful permanent residents ended with entry of the deportation orders and that they therefore became ineligible for section 212(c) relief at that time. The circuits have split on whether the Board's position should be upheld. Compare Katsis v. INS, 997 F.2d 1067 (3d Cir. 1993) (upholding Board's rule) and Ghassan v. INS, 972 F.2d 631 (5th Cir.1992) (same), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 113 S.Ct. 1412, 122 L.Ed.2d 783 (1993) with Goncalves v. INS, 6 F.3d 830 (1st Cir.1993) (setting aside rule because Board has failed to adequately explain departure from its regulation); Butros v. INS, 990 F.2d 1142 (9th Cir.1993) (en banc) (rejecting Board's rule and overruling Gonzales v. INS, 921 F.2d 236 (9th Cir.1990), which had accepted the rule) and Vargas v. INS, 938 F.2d 358 (2d Cir.1991) (finding rule arbitrary and capricious). We have yet to directly address the issue, but we hold today that the Board's position is an unreasonable interpretation of the INA and that Henry and Akrap remained eligible to reopen their section 212(c) applications even after they became subject to final orders of deportation. The Board should therefore have examined the proffered evidence of changed circumstances to determine whether to reopen their applications. We remand so that it may do so.
1. Standard of review
A preliminary question on which the circuits have disagreed is the standard under which the courts should review the Board's decision on this question. The Ninth Circuit has labeled the question "purely legal," calling for de novo review. Butros, 990 F.2d at 1144; see also Gonzales, 921 F.2d at 238. The Second Circuit, although reversing the Board's denial of a motion to reopen, conducted only a "limited review" where it sought "to determine whether the decision
997 F.2d at 1070. The court therefore decided to defer to the Board's interpretation so long as it was "permissible," which the court found it to be. Id. at 1070-71.
In Variamparambil v. INS, 831 F.2d 1362, 1366 (7th Cir.1987), which also involved an alien's legal eligibility for section 212(c) relief (see infra, at 434-35), we relied on Chevron for the proposition that the Board's interpretation is entitled to deference and will be upheld as long as it is reasonable. See also Perez-Rodriguez v. INS, 3 F.3d 1074, 1077-78 (7th Cir.1993); Leal-Rodriguez v. INS, 990 F.2d 939, 944 (7th Cir.1993) ("we must defer to the BIA's views so long as they are a reasonable reading of the INA on a question to which Congress has not spoken."); Zalega v. INS, 916 F.2d 1257, 1259 (7th Cir.1990) ("To the extent that this case turns on the BIA's interpretation of the Immigration Act, our review is de novo; however, so long as its interpretation is reasonable, we must defer to the BIA."). The Board's decisions here rest in part on its interpretation of "lawful permanent residence," as that term is defined in the INA, 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(20).
2. Reasonableness of the Board's interpretation
In denying the motions to reopen based upon statutory ineligibility, the Board relied on our Variamparambil decision as controlling authority. It is not. In that case, we considered the distinct question of whether an alien may accrue time toward section 212(c)'s seven-year residency requirement after a final order of deportation has been entered but before a circuit court has completed its review of that order. See Perez-Rodriguez, 3 F.3d at 1078 ("The issue in Variamparambil was whether the alien's status as a lawful permanent resident had terminated before the seven-year period."). To resolve this question, we were required to consider the reasonableness of the Board's decision in In re Lok, 18 I. & N. Dec. 101 (BIA 1981), aff'd on other grounds, 681 F.2d 107 (2d Cir.1982), that lawful domicile ends when an order of deportation becomes administratively final. Variamparambil, 831 F.2d at 1366. We found the Board's interpretation to be reasonable, agreeing with its concern that by "extending the time beyond the final administrative order [we] would encourage spurious appeals made solely for the purpose of accumulating more time for
In addition to Variamparambil, the Board also relied on its own decisions in In re Cerna, Interim Decision 3161 (BIA 1991), and in Lok to support its decisions below. As our discussion of Variamparambil suggests, Lok is limited to the initial accrual of seven years' unrelinquished domicile and does not address the question presented here. As the Second Circuit observed in Vargas, Lok (like Variamparambil), "stands only for the proposition that an alien cannot become eligible for discretionary relief through subsequent accrual of time towards the seven-year threshold, once he has conceded that he is deportable." 938 F.2d at 361 (emphasis in Vargas); see also Goncalves, 6 F.3d at 832-34.
In Vargas, the Second Circuit found that Lok could not reasonably be extended to circumstances like those presented here. Vargas, 938 F.2d at 360-61. In doing so, the Second Circuit broke ranks with the other circuits, which had found Lok to be an appropriate basis for the Board's statutory ineligibility rule. See, e.g., Gonzales v. INS, 921 F.2d 236, 239-40 (9th Cir.1990), overruled by Butros, 990 F.2d at 1145; Garcia-Hernandez v. INS, 821 F.2d 222, 224 (5th Cir.1987) (petitioner ineligible to reopen section 212(c) application after reviewing court had affirmed Board's original denial of section 212(c) relief).
Akrap's second motion to reopen asked the Board to reconsider its ineligibility finding in light of Vargas. The Board tersely responded that it disagreed with Vargas and therefore would not follow that decision outside the Second Circuit. The sole support it cited for rejecting Vargas was its own decision in
First, Cerna addressed Vargas' statement that "[a] motion to reopen or to reconsider is not a request for a new decision," but such a motion "permits a decisionmaker to reevaluate the original decision." Vargas, 938 F.2d at 362. The Board distinguished between motions to reconsider and motions to reopen and criticized the Second Circuit for "inappropriately entwin[ing]" the two. Cerna, at 5. In the Board's view, motions to reconsider were unaffected by the Lok rule because they merely asked the Board to reconsider an earlier decision based on the same record:
Id. at 6. The Board characterized a request to reopen as "a fundamentally different motion," explaining:
Id. at 6-7 (emphasis added).
The Board also took issue with Vargas' suggestion that its interpretation had effectively amended 8 C.F.R. § 3.2
Subsequent to Cerna, an en banc panel of the Ninth Circuit joined Vargas in rejecting the Board's rule. See Butros, supra. Butros did not discuss Cerna but like the Second
Three months later, the Third Circuit rejected both Butros and Vargas when it upheld the Board's finding of statutory ineligibility. See Katsis, supra. Operating on the assumption that it need only find the Board's interpretation of the INA to be "permissible," the Third Circuit had no difficulty in applying Lok's finality principle to a case where the seven-year domicile requirement had been met. The court found the Board's rule "permissible" "[i]f for no other reason than ease of application," because "it is reasonable to attempt to establish one single standard for the time an alien's lawful permanent resident status changes for all purposes under section 212(c)." Katsis, 997 F.2d at 1073. The court likened the rule to a statute of limitations because it sets "the last day upon which an alien can establish statutory eligibility for section 212(c) relief on a motion to reopen proceedings." Id.
We find Katsis problematic in several respects. First, it assumes that aliens always manufacture equities to support their applications for a discretionary waiver of deportation and that they have ample time to engage in such "manipulation" before a final administrative order of deportation is issued. Thus, the court took a rather skeptical view of the evidence that might be offered after that time:
Id. at 1075. We do not share the Third Circuit's view that all evidence weighing in favor of an alien has somehow been manufactured. Although some evidence relevant to the section 212(c) inquiry may be subject to
We also find the Third Circuit's analogy to a statute of limitations inapt. See Katsis, 997 F.2d at 1073. The Board's rule does not operate like a statute of limitations because both Henry and Akrap (and Katsis, Butros, and Vargas for that matter) already petitioned for a discretionary waiver of deportation before entry of a final administrative order of deportation. They thus satisfied any "statute of limitations" and are simply seeking to reopen their earlier applications to enable the Board to consider new evidence. Their motions are thus not unlike those under Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b), in which parties seek relief from a final judgment to present newly discovered evidence. See Butros, 990 F.2d at 1146 (Fernandez, J., concurring). In the civil arena, such relief is not prohibited after entry of a final judgment, and the Board's own regulation recognizes that it should not be foreclosed in this context either. See 8 C.F.R. § 3.2.
Granted, our analysis diverges from Cerna's conclusion that a motion to reopen, unlike a motion to reconsider, constitutes a new, unrelated application for section 212(c) relief. See Cerna, Interim Decision 3161, at 6-7; see also supra, at 436. Yet we find the distinction drawn by the Board in Cerna to be somewhat artificial. Simply because a motion to reopen contemplates the consideration of additional evidence does not make it "a different application" that must be "adjudicated on a different factual record." Cerna, Interim Decision 3161, at 6. Rather, the underlying application presumably remains the same, as does the factual record; they are simply supplemented with the new evidence.
As for the scope of 8 C.F.R. § 3.2, the Board maintained in Cerna that it was not obliged to reopen proceedings because the "`regulation is framed negatively'" and "`it directs the Board not to reopen unless certain showings are made.'" Cerna, Interim Decision 3161, at 5 (quoting INS v. Jong Ha Wang, 450 U.S. 139, 144 n. 5, 101 S.Ct. 1027, 1031 n. 5, 67 L.Ed.2d 123 (1981)). Yet the required "showings" relate to whether the "evidence sought to be offered is material and was not available and could not have been discovered or presented at the former hearing." 8 C.F.R. § 3.2. It is quite possible that both Henry and Akrap could make these showings, yet they have been denied the opportunity even to try on the
We are not deciding today that either Henry or Akrap has established a right to discretionary relief under section 212(c), or even that the Board must reopen their section 212(c) applications. But we do find that both Henry and Akrap survive the first hurdle — they remain statutorily eligible to pursue section 212(c) relief because both are seeking only to reopen timely section 212(c) applications where both have established the seven years of lawful unrelinquished domicile. They are therefore entitled to have their supplemental evidence considered. Because we find the Board's interpretation of the INA and its own regulation to be unreasonable, we grant the petitions for review in appeal Nos. 92-2801 and 92-3104 and remand both cases to the Board.
C. Board's Denial of Henry's First Motion to Reopen
Although it believed that Henry was statutorily ineligible for section 212(c) relief when he filed both his first and second motions to reopen, the Board considered the merits of Henry's first motion and denied the motion on that ground as well. The Board's reliance on the statutory ineligibility ground was erroneous, but we must affirm the Board in appeal No. 92-1476 if it did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion on the merits.
As we explained in Johnson v. INS, 962 F.2d 574, 576 (7th Cir.1992), the Board may deny reopening on at least three independent grounds:
(citing INS v. Abudu, 485 U.S. 94, 104-05, 108 S.Ct. 904, 911-12, 99 L.Ed.2d 90 (1988)). We review a denial under either of the first two grounds for an abuse of discretion, which would occur only if the denial "is made without rational explanation, inexplicably departs from established policies, or rests on an impermissible basis such as invidious discrimination against a particular race or group." Id. at 577. A discretionary denial (the third possible ground) is also reviewed for an abuse of discretion, but in that instance we must only consider whether the Board's discretion was exercised arbitrarily or capriciously. Id.; see also Garcia-Lopez v. INS, 923 F.2d 72, 74 (7th Cir.1991).
Henry's first motion to reopen was based on a claim that he had received ineffective assistance of counsel in presenting his section 212(c) application to both the IJ and the Board.
It is well settled that deportation hearings are in the nature of civil proceedings and that aliens therefore "have no constitutional right to counsel under the Sixth Amendment." Castaneda-Suarez v. INS, 993 F.2d 142, 144 (7th Cir.1993); see also Lozada v. INS, 857 F.2d 10, 13 (1st Cir. 1988); United States v. Campos-Asencio, 822 F.2d 506, 509 (5th Cir.1987); Magallanes-Damian v. INS, 783 F.2d 931, 933 (9th Cir. 1986). We explained in Castaneda-Suarez, however, that "counsel at a deportation hearing may be `so ineffective as to have impinged upon the fundamental fairness of the hearing in violation of the fifth amendment due process clause.'" 993 F.2d at 144 (quoting Magallanes-Damian, 783 F.2d at 933); see also Saleh v. United States Dep't of Justice, 962 F.2d 234, 241 (2d Cir.1992). Yet ineffectiveness rises to the level of a due process violation only "`if the proceeding was so fundamentally unfair that the alien was prevented from reasonably presenting his case.'" Lozada, 857 F.2d at 13 (quoting Ramirez-Durazo v. INS, 794 F.2d 491, 499-500 (9th Cir.1986)).
Even if we were to assume that counsel was ineffective in presenting Henry's request for section 212(c) relief at the deportation hearing and on appeal to the Board, and that counsel's ineffectiveness resulted in a denial of due process, we believe that in these circumstances the Board may cure any "fundamental unfairness" if it carefully considers the supplemental evidence that accompanies the second motion to reopen. See Lozada, 857 F.2d at 14 (Board's careful attention to motion to reopen negated any due process violation). We are confident that on remand the Board will consider all available evidence, including the numerous affidavits, in determining whether to reopen Henry's request for discretionary relief.
For the foregoing reasons, we DENY Henry's petitions for review in appeal Nos. 91-2252 and 92-1476. We GRANT Henry's petition for review in appeal No. 92-2801 and Akrap's petition for review in appeal No. 92-3104, and REMAND both cases to the Board so that it may consider whether to reopen petitioners' applications for discretionary waivers of deportation under section 212(c).
IT IS SO ORDERED.
8 U.S.C. § 1182(c). Although section 212(c) literally refers only to the excludability of aliens seeking readmission to the United States, it has been interpreted to also apply "to lawful permanent residents who have not left the United States but [who] meet the seven-year requirement and face deportation." Cortes-Castillo v. INS, 997 F.2d 1199, 1202 (7th Cir.1993); see also Castaneda-Suarez, 993 F.2d at 143 n. 2; In re Silva, 16 I. & N. Dec. 26 (BIA 1976).
8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(20).
938 F.2d at 362.
(Henry App. Ex. 2, at 2-3.)