Catholic University Law Review


Maria Natera


The Immigration and Nationality Act has caused the issue of unconstitutional vagueness to become more prominent in recent years in the context of immigration law. The Act provides definitions for certain crimes that are grounds for legal immigrants to be placed in removal proceedings, with the possibility of deportation. With such severe potential consequences, it is crucial that the definitions be crystal clear on what every crime entails in order to give immigrants fair warning.

One such crime that may subject an immigrant to removal proceedings and deportation is a conviction for an “aggravated felony,” coupled with a sentence of more than one-year imprisonment. The definition of the crime includes, among other things, any offense involving “obstruction of justice.” Over the years the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) has created several different definitions of what crimes constitute “obstruction of justice.” This comment analyzes these varying definitions and discussed how they can be used to improve upon the most recent “obstruction of justice” definition provided by the BIA.

This comment offers an argument that the BIA should include a temporal nexus requirement to the definition of “obstruction of justice,” in order to eliminate any unconstitutional vagueness issues. Such a nexus requirement would be in line with the definition of obstruction of justice crimes found in standard criminal law, and it would additionally help resolve the issue of vagueness, by narrowing the scope of crimes included. This, in turn, would provide necessary constitutional notice and satisfy the due process constitutional protection afforded to every person in the United States.