On Oct. 25, 2019, the U.S. Attorney General issued a decision holding that evidence of multiple DUI convictions establishes a presumption that a foreign national lacks “good moral character.”

Key points:

  • Evidence of two or more convictions for driving under the influence during the relevant period establishes the presumption that the foreign national lacks good moral character.
  • Such evidence also presumptively establishes that a foreign national’s application for discretionary cancelation of removal should be denied for failing to show good moral character during the previous 10-year period.

Background: The case involved a Mexican national seeking cancelation of removal on the grounds of exceptional and extreme hardship on his wife and three U.S. citizen children. Among the requirements, he must prove good moral character for the previous 10 years. An immigration judge granted his request for cancelation of removal, finding that despite two DUI convictions in 2010 and 2012, they were outweighed by his work history, his support for his family and his efforts to rehabilitate his previous alcohol abuse. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) overturned the judge’s ruling on the grounds that he did not show the requisite “exceptional and extremely unusual hardship,” and on the alternative grounds that he did not show “good moral character.”

Last December, Acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker directed the BIA to refer the case to him for review. Last month, U.S. Attorney General William Barr affirmed the BIA’s order and provided new reasoning under the good moral character grounds.

The full decision in Matter of Castillo-Perez is here.

BAL Analysis: The Attorney General’s decision departs from previous policy and will make it more difficult for foreign nationals to overcome multiple DUIs during the relevant look-back period to establish good moral character. Though the case involved a 10-year look-back period for purposes of cancelation of removal, foreign nationals applying for naturalization are also required to prove they possess good moral character for a five-year period preceding their application, thereby impacting those individuals as well. A footnote in the decision may also reveal potential impacts on applicants for permanent residence. In the footnote, the Attorney General noted that as the decision to grant or deny adjustment of status (permanent residence) is also a discretionary benefit, there should be “a careful analysis of whether an applicant with multiple DUI convictions merits such relief as a matter of discretion.”

This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group. For additional information, please contact berryapplemanleiden@bal.com.

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