James Acquaah v. Jefferson B. Sessions III

In the United States Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit ____________________ No. 16‐3277 JAMES O. ACQUAAH, Petitioner, v. JEFFERSON B. SESSIONS III, Attorney General of the United States, Respondent. ____________________ Petition for Review of an Order of the Board of Immigration Appeals. No. A027‐896‐308 ____________________ ARGUED JUNE 7, 2017 — DECIDED NOVEMBER 6, 2017 ____________________ Before RIPPLE, ROVNER and HAMILTON, Circuit Judges. PER CURIAM. James Acquaah is a sixty‐three‐year‐old man from Ghana. He originally entered the United States on a vis‐ itor’s visa and later obtained conditional permanent resident status based on his marriage to a United States citizen. His application to remove the conditions on his residency sparked proceedings that have spanned more than twenty‐five years. While those proceedings awaited a decision by the Board of 2 No. 16‐3277 Immigration Appeals (the “Board”), his first marriage ended, he remarried and had a daughter, and he sought and received permanent residency under a different name on the basis of that second marriage. The procedural history of this case is complicated, but the issue before us in the present petition is a narrow one: whether, when issuing a final decision in 2015 on Mr. Acquaah’s first petition to remove the conditions on his residency, the Board erred in determining that Mr. Acquaah was statutorily ineligible for a fraud waiver. We conclude that the Board erred in construing the statutory waiver and there‐ fore remand this case to the Board for proceedings consistent with this opinion. I BACKGROUND A. In 1981, Mr. Acquaah married Apollonia Sowah in Ghana. While still married to Sowah, Mr. Acquaah was admitted to this country in 1984 on a visitor’s visa. In mid‐1986, he di‐ vorced Sowah, and several months later, he married a United States citizen, Sharon Collins. Collins filed a petition on his behalf, and on the basis of their marriage, he obtained condi‐ tional permanent resident status. In 1990, he and Collins jointly filed a petition to remove the conditions on his permanent resident status (the “Collins petition”) and were jointly interviewed on the petition in April 1990. The record is not entirely clear on the point, but he and Collins separated around the same time. A year after the interview, the agency (the former Immigration and Natu‐ ralization Service, or “INS”) issued its notice of intent to deny No. 16‐3277 3 the petition because it concluded that he had failed to show that his marriage was bona fide at its inception. In June 1991, on the basis of that decision, the agency initiated deportation proceedings. It charged Mr. Acquaah as deportable under 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(1)(D)(i), as an alien whose conditional status had been terminated “because the marriage which qualified you for status was determined to have been entered into for the sole purpose of procuring your entry as an immigrant.”1 Approximately one month later, Mr. Acquaah, now sepa‐ rated from Collins, registered a new customary marriage to his first wife, Sowah, in Ghana, using the name “Kofi Obese.”2 In deportation proceedings, ...

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