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Ojo v. Lynch

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

February 16, 2016

ADEBOWALE OLOYEDE OJO, Petitioner,
v.
LORETTA E. LYNCH, Respondent

Argued December 8, 2015,

On Petition for Review of an Order of the Board of Immigration Appeals..

ARGUED:

Henry Caleb Griffin, GRIFFIN AND GRIFFIN, Annapolis, Maryland, for Petitioner.

Stefanie A. Svoren-Jay, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Respondent.

ON BRIEF:

 Benjamin C. Mizer, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Civil Division, John S. Hogan, Assistant Director, Office of Immigration Litigation, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Respondent.

Before MOTZ, KING, and KEENAN, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

KING, Circuit Judge

Adebowale Oloyede Ojo, a native of Nigeria and the adopted son of a United States citizen, petitions for review of the decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals (the " BIA" ) denying a motion to reopen his removal proceedings. In so ruling, the BIA relied on its administrative interpretation of a provision in the Immigration and Nationality Act (the " INA" ) relating to adopted children, codified at 8 U.S.C. § 1101(b)(1)(E)(i). That provision is not ambiguous in the way asserted by the BIA, however, and thus does not contain a gap that Congress has left for the BIA to fill. Moreover, the BIA's interpretation -- which summarily disregards facially valid state court orders -- is contrary to law. We therefore grant the petition for review, vacate the BIA's decision, and remand for further proceedings.

I.

A.

Before addressing the particulars of Ojo's case, we briefly sketch the relevant statutory framework governing citizenship for foreign-born children. Section 1431(a) of Title 8 provides that " [a] child born outside of the United States automatically becomes a citizen of the United States when [three] conditions" are satisfied:

o First, " [a]t least one parent of the child is a citizen of the United States, whether by birth or naturalization" ;
o Second, " [t]he child is under the age of eighteen years" ; and
o Finally, " [t]he child is residing in the United States in the legal and physical custody of the citizen parent pursuant to a lawful admission for permanent residence."

An adopted child qualifies as a " child" for purposes of § 1431(a) if he was " adopted by a United States citizen parent" and satisfies the relevant requirements of 8 U.S.C. § 1101(b)(1). See § 1431(b).

Section 1101(b)(1)(E)(i), in turn, defines a child as " an unmarried person under twenty-one years of age," who was " adopted while under the age of sixteen years if the child has been in the legal custody of, and has resided with, the adopting parent or parents for at least two years." The INA does not provide its own definition of the term " adopted," specify any requirements for a proper ...


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