MARIA SYLVIA CARDOSO DE FLORES, also known as Maria Flores, Petitioner
MATTHEW G. WHITAKER, ACTING U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL, Respondent
Petition for Review of an Order of the Board of Immigration
KING, HIGGINSON, and COSTA, Circuit Judges.
immigration judge ordered petitioner Maria Sylvia Cardoso de
Flores removed from the United States. Cardoso de Flores had
been lawfully admitted as a permanent resident alien, but the
immigration judge determined she was removable under the
Immigration and Nationality Act because she was convicted of
a drug offense. The Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed.
Cardoso de Flores petitions this court for review, arguing
that she is not removable because she was convicted for
possessing a small amount of marijuana for personal use. We
find no error in the BIA's analysis; accordingly, we DENY
Cardoso de Flores's petition.
de Flores, a Mexican citizen, was lawfully admitted to the
United States as a permanent resident alien in 1998 after
marrying a United States citizen. In 2000, authorities in
Tennessee arrested Cardoso de Flores after finding her in a
car carrying 54.6 pounds of marijuana. A Tennessee grand jury
indicted Cardoso de Flores with possessing with the intent to
sell more than 4, 536 grams of marijuana in violation of
Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-417. Cardoso de Flores later
pleaded guilty to the lesser offense of possession of a
controlled substance in violation of Tenn. Code Ann. §
2010, the Department of Homeland Security issued Cardoso de
Flores a notice to appear charging her with removability
under 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(2)(B)(i)-part of the
Immigration and Nationality Act ("INA")- because
she had been convicted of a controlled-substance offense.
Cardoso de Flores argued through counsel that her Tennessee
conviction did not render her removable because her
conviction was for "a single offense involving
possession for one's own use of 30 grams or less of
marijuana," which § 1227(a)(2)(B)(i) excepts as
grounds for removal. Looking to Cardoso de Flores's
arrest report, an immigration judge (the "IJ")
determined that Cardoso de Flores's conviction involved
possession of 54.6 pounds of marijuana. The IJ therefore
determined that § 1227(a)(2)(B)(i)'s personal-use
exception did not apply. The IJ further found Cardoso de
Flores was not entitled to cancellation of removal because
she did not live in the United States continuously for seven
years prior to her offense. Accordingly, the IJ ordered
Cardoso de Flores removed from the United States.
de Flores appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals
("BIA"). Following its precedent, the BIA applied a
circumstance-specific inquiry to determine whether the
personal-use exception applied to Cardoso de Flores's
conviction. It determined as a threshold matter that the
Tennessee statute supporting Cardoso de Flores's
conviction was not limited to simple possession of 30 or
fewer grams of marijuana. Then, looking to Cardoso de
Flores's arrest report, criminal complaint, and plea
colloquy, the BIA determined that Cardoso de Flores possessed
54.6 pounds of marijuana. Finding no contrary evidence, it
concluded that the personal-use exception did not apply and
affirmed the IJ's order. Cardoso de Flores now petitions
this court for review.
as here, the BIA issues its own opinion explaining its
reasoning, we review the BIA's opinion instead of the
IJ's order. See Ghotra v. Whitaker, 912 F.3d
284, 287 (5th Cir. 2019). "Although we generally review
its legal conclusions de novo, 'the BIA is
entitled to Chevron deference when it interprets a
statutory provision of the INA and gives the statute
"concrete meaning through a process of case-by-case
adjudication, "' so long as the BIA's opinion is
precedential." Calvillo Garcia v. Sessions, 870
F.3d 341, 343-44 (5th Cir. 2017) (footnotes omitted) (quoting
Ali v. Lynch, 814 F.3d 306, 309-10 (5th Cir. 2016));
see also Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Nat. Res. Def.
Council, 467 U.S. 837, 843-44 (1984). Under
Chevron, we afford agency interpretations of
statutes "'controlling weight unless they are
arbitrary, capricious, or manifestly contrary to the
statute' or Congress has 'unambiguously
expressed' a contrary intent." Calvillo
Garcia, 870 F.3d at 344 (quoting Orellana-Monson v.
Holder, 685 F.3d 511, 517 (5th Cir. 2012)). We review
the BIA's factual findings for substantial evidence.
Ghotra, 912 F.3d at 287.
1227 lists categories of aliens subject to removal,
Any alien who at any time after admission has been convicted
of a violation of (or a conspiracy or attempt to violate) any
law or regulation of a State, the United States, or a foreign
country relating to a controlled substance (as defined in
section 802 of Title 21), other than a single offense
involving possession for one's own use of 30 grams or
less of marijuana.
§ 1227(a)(2)(B)(i). Courts must apply the so-called
categorical approach to determine whether an alien's
conviction relates to a controlled substance. See
Mellouli v. Lynch, 135 S.Ct. 1980, 1985-87 (2015). Under
the categorical approach, courts "look to the
statutory definition of the offense of conviction, ...