In a recent decision, the Board of Immigration Appeals held that service of a Notice to Appear (“NTA”) on an alien is effective, so long as the alien is at least 14 years old. See Matter of Cubor-Cruz, 25 I&N Dec. 470 (BIA April 29, 2011).
It may seem idiotic to expect a child still in the throws of puberty to respond to an NTA, but to be fair, the BIA was just following orders:
Section 239(a)(1) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. § 1229(a)(1) (2006), provides that the Notice to Appear is properly served if it is “given in person to the alien (or if personal service is not practicable, through service by mail to the alien or to the alien’s counsel of record, if any).” See also 8 C.F.R. § 103.5a(c)(1) (2010) (providing for personal service of notice). However, the regulations state that if the alien is a minor under 14 years of age, “service shall be made upon the person with whom the . . . minor resides; whenever possible, service shall also be made on the near relative, guardian, committee, or friend.” 8 C.F.R. § 103.5a(c)(2)(ii); see also 8 C.F.R. § 236.2(a) (2010).
So I suppose it really isn’t the BIA’s fault that the regulations allow for service of an NTA on a middle school student. There are a few things that bother me about this decision.
For one, the regulation is ridiculous. How can a 14 year old be expected to understand and respond to an NTA? This is another example highlighting the need for court-appointed advocates in cases involving minors or people who are incapable of representing themselves.
Second, why did the Board bother to publish this decision? It does nothing except re-state the regulation. Given that the BIA publishes decisions so rarely (only about 1 case in 1,000 is published), it is disappointing that they would “waste” a published decision on a case that does nothing to clarify the law or set a precedent.
Finally, why didn’t the Board take this opportunity to criticize the regulation and/or call for court appointed advocates in cases involving minor children? The BIA likes to tell us that it has no authority to rule on the validity of the regulations that govern it. Maybe so, but it does have the expertise and the moral authority to criticize those regulations where they are unfair. There is a long tradition in the American legal system of courts criticizing laws, even when they cannot invalidate those laws. Sometimes, a well-written criticism helps change an unjust law. Also, there is a tradition of courts asserting their authority even when the other branches of government question that authority (think Justice Marshall in Marbury v. Madison).
In Matter of Cubor-Cruz, the BIA missed an opportunity to criticize an unjust regulation. It also missed a chance to assert its (moral) authority in order to bring about a positive change in the law.
Originally posted on the Asylumist: www.Asylumist.com.
Jason Dzubow's practice focuses on immigration law, asylum, and appellate litigation. Mr. Dzubow is admitted to practice law in the federal and state courts of Washington, DC and Maryland, the United States Courts of Appeals for the Third, Fourth, Eleventh, and DC Circuits, all Immigration Courts in the United States, and the Board of Immigration Appeals. He is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and the Capital Area Immigrant Rights (CAIR) Coalition. In June 2009, CAIR Coalition honored Mr. Dzubow for his Outstanding Commitment to Defending the Rights and Dignity of Detained Immigrants.