The California legislature enacted Cal. Penal Code § 1437.7, which protects the rights of immigrants by allowing them to ask courts to vacate convictions when they were deprived of the right to meaningfully understand, knowingly accept, or defend against immigration consequences of the conviction. This legislation, which the California ACLU affiliates sponsored, is critical for immigrants who face deportation in federal immigration proceedings as a result of state convictions.
O.E.B. has lived in the United States as a lawful permanent resident since he was a child. He was charged with removability based on a criminal conviction. However, his conviction was vacated under § 1473.7; he is no longer removable based on that or any other conviction. Initially without counsel, he moved to reopen his removal and terminate his removal proceedings, but U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) opposed the motion, contending that a conviction vacated under § 1473.7 still makes a person removable. If accepted by the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) or federal courts, that position would effectively nullify the impact of § 1437.7. Representing O.E.B., we filed a brief with the BIA opposing ICE’s position and arguing that the vacatur invalidates the conviction and no longer serves as a basis for his removal. In November 2021, the BIA granted O.E.B.’s motion and remanded it to the immigration court for further proceedings.