Aguirre-Aguirre (defendant) was born in Guatemala and was a member of a political activist group opposed to the Guatemalan government. To support its political goals, the group would break windows, burn buses, and attack police. While the group attempted to avoid casualties, people who refused to get out of the way were beaten or stoned. Aguirre-Aguirre participated in burning ten buses and beating the passengers who would not get off. The Board of Immigration Appeals found that he was not entitled to a withholding of deportation because he committed a “serious nonpolitical crime” before coming to the United States. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that the Board had applied an incorrect standard and remanded the case. The Supreme Court granted certiorari on the government's appeal.