The Ninth Circuit has rejected the Board of Immigration Appeals' (Board) categorical rule, established in Matter of G-G-S-, that an adjudicator may not consider a petitioner's mental health condition when determining whether he has been convicted of a particularly serious crime. "This decision is contrary to Congress’s clearly expressed intent that the analysis of whether a crime is particularly serious requires the agency to conduct a case-by-case analysis of convictions falling outside the category established by Congress, because such categorical rules undermine the ability of the agency to conduct a case-by-case analysis in each case."
"The IJ is not retrying the question of guilt but assessing whether the circumstances of the crime are so serious as to justify removal to a country where there is a significant risk of persecution. Therefore, an IJ, as a fact finder focused on that question, may choose to examine what he or she deems reliable evidence of mental health and decide whether such evidence bears on the dangerousness determination, and ultimately whether the individual committed a particularly serious crime, without disturbing, or 'reassessing' the criminal court’s findings."
"Second, the Board’s concerns about 'going behind' a conviction are unreasonable given that, pursuant to various provisions of the INA, IJs regularly scrutinize the factual circumstances surrounding crimes of conviction."
"Third, the Board’s assumption that consideration of mental health would implicate reassessment of the criminal court’s finding is flawed because the mental health evidence the individual wishes to offer in the immigration court may never have been presented to the criminal court. For example, no specific mental state is required as an element of strict liability offenses, and similarly, mental illness is not a defense to crimes that require only negligence; and at sentencing judges may exercise their discretion and choose not to consider mental illness in making their decision."
The Court also recognized that the decision in G-G-S- is inconsistent with the Board's caselaw permitting an adjudicator to consider "all reliable information" when making a particularly serious crime determination. Finally, the Court disagreed with the Board's determination that mental illness is never relevant to the particularly serious crime assessment because it is inconsistent with the Board's precedent recognizing the relevance of motivation and intent to the particularly serious crime determination and fails to recognize that mental illness bears on intent.
The full text of Gomez-Sanchez v. Sessions can be found here: