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Gonzales v. Duenas-Alvarez

United States Supreme Court
549 U.S. 183 (2007)


In 2002, Luis Duenas-Alvarez (plaintiff), a permanent resident alien of the United States, was convicted in California of aiding in the theft of a vehicle. The relevant statute provided that any person who steals a car or “any person who is a party or an accessory to or an accomplice in” the driving or unauthorized taking or stealing of a vehicle is guilty of a crime. The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) lists a set of generic offenses, including a generic “theft” offense, which may be the basis for deportation of an alien convicted of such an offense. After learning of Duenas-Alvarez’s conviction, the federal government initiated proceedings to remove Duenas-Alvarez from the United States. After a hearing, the immigration judge ordered the removal of Duenas-Alvarez. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) affirmed the order. Thereafter, Duenas-Alvarez sought review of the BIA’s decision in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals against Attorney General Alberto Gonzales (defendant). While Duenas-Alvarez’s case was pending, the appellate court held in Penuliar v. Ashcroft, 395 F.3d 1037 (9th Cir.2005), that the specific California statute at issue in Duenas-Alvarez’s case went beyond a mere generic theft offense. Specifically, the Penuliar court concluded that the California statute permitted conviction for aiding and abetting a theft without the general statutory requirement of taking or controlling the vehicle stolen. According to the Penuliar court, the additional language contained in the California statute fell outside the boundaries of a generic theft offense and, consequently, would not permit deportation of an alien. The court of appeals rejected Duenas-Alvarez petition for review as being moot. Attorney General Gonzales appealed. The U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari to review.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Breyer, J.)

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