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Deportation for a state drug-related offense overturned where failure to show that the offense related to a drug on the federal lists

In Rojas v. Holder, __- F.3d ___ (3rd Cir. August 23, 2013), the full Third Circuit federal court of appeals upheld the appeal of the immigrant in a case where the government had ordered the person deported based on a Pennsylvania drug paraphernalia conviction even where the government had failed to show that the offense was related to a controlled substance on the federal schedules.  In so doing, the court rejected the Board of Immigration Appeals’ decision in Matter of Espinoza, 25 I&N Dec. 118 (BIA 2009) to the extent that the BIA decision could be read to permit immigration judges to order the deportation of immigrants convicted of drug-related crimes (other than possessory offenses), such as a drug paraphernalia offense, even where the government has not established that the offense related to a drug on the federal schedules or lists of illegal controlled substances.  The Third Circuit relied on the plain text of the federal drug deportation statute, which requires that the offense be related a controlled substance “as defined in” federal law.  The petitioner in this case was represented by Pennsylvania attorneys Craig R. Shagin and Tracey M. Hubbard.  IDP provided expert legal assistance.

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