MELLOULI v. HOLDER
In 2010, Moones Mellouli, a citizen of Tunisia residing in the United States, was arrested for driving under the influence. While Mellouli was detained, police discovered four tablets of Adderall in his sock. Although initially charged with trafficking a controlled substance in a jail, Mellouli ultimately pled guilty to the lesser charge of possessing drug paraphernalia in violation of a Kansas statute. In 2012, the government attempted to deport Mellouli pursuant to the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which states that aliens convicted under any law “relating to a controlled substance” as defined by the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), are deportable.
In immigration court, Mellouli argued that, since his 2010 conviction did not specify a particular controlled substance and the Kansas statute includes some substances not included in the CSA, his conviction did not necessarily “relate to a controlled substance” for the purposes of the INA. The judge rejected the argument and held that Mellouli was deportable because the particular controlled substance involved in his conviction was irrelevant. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) affirmed and held that possession of drug paraphernalia involves drug trade in general, which is “related to a controlled substance,” and therefore Mellouli’s conviction met the criteria required by the INA. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eight Circuit denied Mellouli’s petition for review and his petition for rehearing en banc. The appellate court held that the BIA’s conclusion was reasonable in light of the INA’s use of the general term “relating to” instead of a more specific term like “involving.”
To trigger deportability under the Immigration and Nationality Act, must the government prove the connection between a drug paraphernalia conviction and a substance listed in the Controlled Substances Act?