Jake Shatzer

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In 2001, Alfredo Talamantes-Enriquez was convicted in two cases of simple battery under Georgia Law. He was sentenced to twelve months of probation for each conviction. Over fifteen years later, the U.S. government sought to deport Mr. Talamantes, arguing that his Georgia convictions made him an “aggravated felon” for immigration purposes. The aggravated felon statute provides that a non-citizen who commits a crime of violence and is sentenced to imprisonment of at least one year is deportable.

It seems obvious that someone in Talamantes’s position would not be an aggravated felon. Talamantes did not spend a day in jail but rather was only sentenced to probation. The government won in immigration court, however, arguing that his sentence was actually a term of imprisonment that “was allowed to be served” entirely on probation.

Talamantes appealed this ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. While pending appeal, the Georgia trial court issued orders clarifying that he was only sentenced to probation. The Eleventh Circuit rejected these orders, however, and upheld the reasoning of the immigration court. This decision marks a significant injustice to non-citizens in the U.S. who are convicted of crimes. The Eleventh Circuit ignored the plain meaning of the aggravated felon statute, its own precedent, and respect for state courts’ interpretations of state law.

This Note dissects the grave legal and logical errors in the Eleventh Circuit’s decision. It then makes recommendations for all the actors who affect immigration proceedings—federal courts, state courts, Congress, and the Attorney General—in order to prevent the unjust application of the Eleventh Circuit’s decision in the future.

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