SCOTUSblog: Mellouli v. Lynch
Holding: In a 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that Mellouli’s Kansas conviction for concealing unnamed pills in his sock did not trigger removal under §1227(a)(2)(B)(i). The categorical approach historically taken in determining whether a state conviction renders an alien removable looks to the statutory definition of the offense of conviction, not to the particulars of the alien’s conduct. The state conviction triggers removal only if, by definition, the underlying crime falls within a category of removable offenses defined by federal law. The BIA has long applied the categorical approach to assess whether a state drug conviction triggers removal under successive versions of what is now §1227(a)(2)(B)(i). The BIA announced and applied a different approach that, in this case, finds no home in §1227(a)(2)(B)(i)’s text and leads to consequences Congress could not have intended.