The U.S. Supreme Court issued a great decision today interpreting the removability provisions related to possession of paraphernalia. The Court determined that a conviction for possession of paraphernalia must be linked to a controlled substance defined in the federal Controlled Substances Act in order to have immigration consequences. In so finding, the Court refused to defer to the Board of Immigration Appeals' (BIA) decision in Matter of Martinez Espinoza, which had held that paraphernalia convictions could carry immigration consequences regardless of whehter they were linked to a particular controlled substance because they were tied to the "drug trade in general." "Drug possession and distribution convictions trigger removal only if they necessarily involve a federally controlled substance, while convictions for paraphernalia possession, an offense less grave than drug possession and distribution, trigger removal whether or not they necessarily implicate a federally controlled substance. The incongruous upshot is that an alien is not removable for possessing a substance controlled only under Kansas law, but he is removable for using a sock to contain that substance. Because it makes scant sense, the BIA’s interpretation, we hold, is owed no deference."
The full text of Mellouli v. Lynch can be found here: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/14pdf/13-1034_3dq4.pdf