Garcia v. Garland, 20-1641-ag

"Petitioner Antonio Luna Garcia seeks review of a decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA” or the “Board”) affirming the denial of his request for administrative closure of his removal proceedings. In denying the request, the agency relied on Matter of Castro-Tum, 27 I. & N. Dec. 271 (A.G. 2018), a then-controlling decision of the Attorney General that held that the regulations governing immigration adjudications did not allow immigration judges or the BIA to apply administrative closure except in narrow circumstances. The Attorney General has since overruled Matter of Castro-Tum. See Matter of Cruz-Valdez, 28 I. & N. Dec. 326 (A.G. 2021). As a result, this appeal presents the question of whether an agency abused its discretion when it relied on an interpretation of its regulations that was controlling at the time of its decision but that the agency has since modified. Even if it was not an abuse of discretion to apply an agency interpretation that has since changed, Garcia argues that Matter of Castro-Tum conflicted with the regulations it purported to interpret, and therefore the agency erred in applying that interpretation at any time. Garcia further argues, in the alternative, that even if Matter of Castro-Tum reflected a reasonable interpretation of the regulations, it nevertheless permitted administrative closure in his case. The agency, he argues, incorrectly interpreted Matter of Castro-Tum when it held otherwise.

We deny the petition for review. First, we hold that an agency does not abuse its discretion by relying on an interpretation of its regulations that is controlling at the time of its decision—even if the agency subsequently revises that interpretation—as long as it reflects a reasonable interpretation of the regulations. Second, we conclude that the regulations in this case are at least ambiguous with respect to the availability of administrative closure and that Matter of CastroTum expressed a reasonable interpretation of the regulations that is entitled to deference. Third, we agree with the BIA that Matter of Castro-Tum did not authorize administrative closure in this case."