Salar Khoshfahm v. Eric Holder, Jr.
FILED OPINION (BETTY BINNS FLETCHER, N. RANDY SMITH and RUDI M. BREWSTER) GRANTED. Judge: BBF Authoring, Judge: RB Concurring. FILED AND ENTERED JUDGMENT. 
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UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT
ERIC H. HOLDER
On Petition for Review of an Order of the
Board of Immigration Appeals
Argued and Submitted
June 8, 2011—Pasadena, California
Filed August 25, 2011
Before: Betty B. Fletcher and N. Randy Smith,
Circuit Judges, and Rudi M. Brewster, District Judge.*
Opinion by Judge B. Fletcher;
Concurrence by Judge N.R. Smith
*The Honorable Rudi M. Brewster, Senior District Judge for the U.S.
District Court for Southern California, San Diego, sitting by designation.
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KHOSHFAHM v. HOLDER
Nadia Farah, Law Office of Nadia Farah, Tracy, California,
for the petitioner.
Aimee J. Frederickson (argued), United States Department of
Justice, Office of Immigration Litigation, Washington, DC,
for the respondent.
B. FLETCHER, Circuit Judge:
Petitioner Salar Khoshfahm (“Khoshfahm”) seeks review
of a March 8, 2010 decision of the Board of Immigration
Appeals (“BIA”) affirming the Immigration Judge’s (“IJ”)
finding of removability and denial of his application for asy-
KHOSHFAHM v. HOLDER
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lum and withholding of removal. The BIA affirmed the IJ’s
conclusion that Khoshfahm, who lived for approximately six
continuous years with his parents in Iran, abandoned his lawful permanent resident (“LPR”) status. The BIA also affirmed
the IJ’s determination that Khoshfahm failed to meet his burden of proof as to eligibility for asylum and withholding of
removal. Khoshfahm timely appealed. We have jurisdiction
under 8 U.S.C. § 1252, and we grant the petition.
Khoshfahm was born in 1988, in Tabriz, Iran. In 2001,
when he was thirteen, he came with his parents to the United
States. He and his parents obtained LPR status through a petition filed on their behalf by Khoshfahm’s United States citizen uncle, who lives in Sacramento, California. Khoshfahm
and his parents lived in the United States with this uncle for
seven months. Khoshfahm’s father worked for about three of
those months in the security department of a company, while
his mother remained at home. Khoshfahm believes that his
father opened a bank account while he was working. His
father then quit his job because the family decided to go back
to Iran to sell the property they owned there in order to raise
money to live in the United States. His parents did not sell the
house that they owned in Tabriz before they traveled to this
country because they had only six months to prepare for the
Khoshfahm testified that it was always his family’s intent
to return to the United States after selling their property. The
terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, however, occurred
one week after their return to Iran, and Khoshfahm’s family
had difficulty obtaining an airline ticket for two or three
months thereafter. Then, in November of 2001, Khoshfahm’s
father became ill with a heart condition, for which he had to
be hospitalized. His heart condition restricted his ability to
travel. This condition, and the resulting travel restriction,
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KHOSHFAHM v. HOLDER
lasted for several years. Khoshfahm’s mother stayed in Iran
to care for his father.
Khoshfahm finished middle school and then high school in
Iran. He testified that he “always wanted” to return to the
United States, but that he had to remain in Iran until he was
18 due to Iran’s obligatory military service, and because,
before turning 18, he possessed a merely temporary passport
and could not “go [on] prolonged trips outside” the country by
himself. Khoshfahm explained that the Iranian government
would not issue him a permanent passport until he had either
fulfilled or been excused from Iranian military service.
Khoshfahm was eventually excused from military service and,
when he turned 18, he obtained a permanent passport, which
allowed him to return to the United States.
On February 28, 2007, approximately five months after his
eighteenth birthday, Khoshfahm arrived at San Francisco
International Airport and applied for admission to the United
States as a returning resident. Khoshfahm was paroled into the
United States for deferred inspection. Khoshfahm’s parole
was thereafter revoked. On March 21, 2007, the Department
of Homeland Security (“DHS”) filed with the Immigration
Court a Notice to Appear charging him with inadmissability
under § 212(a)(7)(A)(i)(I) of the Immigration and Nationality
Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(7)(A)(i)(I), as an immigrant
who at the time of application for admission was not in possession of a valid entry document.
A hearing on the charge of removability was held before
the IJ. When the IJ asked him where his parents were at the
time, Khoshfahm testified, inter alia, that his father’s heart
condition (which had prevented him from traveling) had
recently “improved,” but that his parents were waiting for a
decision in Khoshfahm’s case before returning to the United
At oral argument, however, Khoshfahm’s counsel indicated that
Khoshfahm’s parents did indeed return to the United States after Khosh-
KHOSHFAHM v. HOLDER
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On November 7, 2007, the IJ issued a decision finding
Khoshfahm removable as charged and denying his applications for asylum and withholding of removal. Khoshfahm
timely appealed the IJ’s decision to the BIA, and, on March
8, 2010, the BIA dismissed the appeal. The BIA agreed with
the IJ that, because Khoshfahm was only thirteen at the time
his family returned to Iran and was “an unemancipated minor
for essentially all of the period abroad in question,” it was
proper to look to the intent of Khoshfahm’s parents in determining whether he had abandoned his lawful permanent resident status. The BIA found no clear error in the IJ’s finding
that Khoshfahm’s parents did not have a continuous, uninterrupted intention to return to the United States during the
entirety of their visit to Iran. Accordingly, the BIA concluded
that Khoshfahm had abandoned his lawful permanent resident
status. The BIA also affirmed the IJ’s finding that Khoshfahm, while credible, had not satisfied his burden of proof for
asylum and withholding of removal. Khoshfahm timely
appealed the BIA’s decision with respect to abandonment of
his LPR status and his petitions for asylum and withholding
In this case, the BIA agreed with the findings and conclusions reached by the IJ, but it also provided its own reasoning
as to the issue of abandonment. In evaluating the BIA’s decision, we review de novo questions of law, but “defer to the
BIA’s interpretation of immigration laws unless the interpretation is ‘clearly contrary to the plain and sensible meaning of
the statute.’ ” Mercado-Zazueta v. Holder, 580 F.3d 1102,
1104 (9th Cir. 2009) (quoting Mota v. Mukasey, 543 F.3d
fahm’s hearing and were “admitted as legal permanent residents.” According to counsel, Khoshfahm’s father passed away last year but his mother
currently lives in this country. The government did not dispute these representations.
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KHOSHFAHM v. HOLDER
1165, 1167 (9th Cir. 2008)). Factual findings are reviewed for
substantial evidence, meaning that they are reversed if a “reasonable adjudicator would be compelled to conclude to the
contrary.” 8 U.S.C. § 1252(b)(4)(B).
Abandonment of LPR Status
 The government maintains that, by the time Koshfahm
sought reentry into the United States, he had abandoned his
LPR status. “When an applicant has a colorable claim to
returning resident status,” the government “has the burden of
proving he is not eligible for admission to the United States.”
Singh v. Reno, 113 F.3d 1512, 1514 (9th Cir. 1997). The government must establish by “clear, unequivocal, and convincing evidence” that this status has changed or been abandoned.
Id. On its face, abandonment of immigration status appears to
be a legal inquiry. We have held, however, that, because
whether a petitioner has abandoned his LPR status is an
intrinsically fact-specific question, we review the BIA’s determination as to abandonment under the substantial evidence
standard. Khodagholian v. Ashcroft, 335 F.3d 1003, 1006 (9th
Cir. 2003) (citations omitted). Thus, in reviewing the BIA’s
decision, we must determine whether there is (1) substantial
evidence that (2) the government has offered “clear, unequivocal, and convincing evidence” of (3) the ultimate finding
necessary to support the abandonment of lawful status. See
Singh, 113 F.3d at 1517 (Reinhardt, J., dissenting).
 We now consider what the government must prove by
“clear, unequivocal, and convincing evidence” in order to
establish abandonment of LPR status. “[I]n order to qualify as
a returning resident alien, an alien must have acquired lawful
permanent resident status in accordance with our laws, must
have retained that status from the time he acquired it, and
must be returning to an ‘unrelinquished lawful permanent residence’ after a ‘temporary visit abroad.’ ” Singh, 113 F.3d at
KHOSHFAHM v. HOLDER
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1514 (quoting Matter of Huang, 19 I. & N. Dec. 749, 753
(1988)). “A trip is a ‘temporary visit abroad’ if (a) it is for a
‘relatively short’ period, fixed by some early event; or (b) the
trip will terminate upon the occurrence of an event that has a
reasonable possibility of occurring within a relatively short
period of time.” Id. (citation omitted). If the alien’s trip
abroad is not “relatively short,” it is a “temporary visit
abroad” only if the alien has “a continuous, uninterrupted
intention to return to the United States during the entirety of
his visit.” Id. (citing Chavez-Ramirez v. INS, 792 F.2d 932,
937 (9th Cir. 1986)). In other words, a legal permanent resident “may extend his trip beyond that relatively short period
only if he intends to return to the United States as soon as
possible thereafter.” Id.
 Thus, because it is the government that has the burden
of proof with respect to abandonment of status, id., it must
show by “clear, unequivocal, and convincing evidence” that
the petitioner’s trip abroad was not “relatively short” and that
the petitioner did not maintain a “continuous, uninterrupted
intention to return to the United States,” thereby abandoning
his status. We review for substantial evidence the BIA’s conclusion that the government met this burden.
Imputation of Abandonment
Here, the BIA agreed with the IJ that, because Khoshfahm
was an unemancipated minor for almost the entire period that
he lived in Iran, it should look to the intent of Khoshfahm’s
parents to determine whether he had abandoned his LPR status by the time he attempted to reenter the United States.
Because it concluded that Khoshfahm’s parents had in fact
abandoned their LPR status, it imputed this abandonment to
 Under BIA precedent, if a petitioner’s parent abandons
his or her LPR status while the petitioner is in his or her custody and control, then the parental abandonment must be
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KHOSHFAHM v. HOLDER
imputed to the child. See Matter of Huang, 19 I. & N. Dec.
at 750 n.1 (“Abandonment of lawful permanent resident status
of a parent is imputed to a minor child who is subject to the
parent’s custody and control.”); Matter of Zamora, 17 I. & N.
Dec. 395, 396 (BIA 1980) (“We hold that this voluntary and
intended abandonment by the mother is imputed to the applicant, who was an unemancipated minor . . . at the time his
mother abandoned her lawful resident status.”); Matter of
Winkens, 15 I. & N. Dec. 451, 452 (BIA 1975) (holding that
“[t]he abandonment of [the parents of petitioner’s] permanent
resident status is imputed to [petitioner], who was subject to
their custody and control” when they abandoned).
 These decisions are loosely derived from the BIA’s
prior decision in Matter of Bauer, 10 I & N. Dec. 304 (BIA
1963). There, the BIA held that no “reentry” under INA
§ 101(a)(13) was made by the 19-year-old petitioner upon his
return to the United States three years after departing this
country in the custody and control of his parents. Id. at 308.
The BIA reasoned that because the petitioner was under “a
legal compulsion to follow and accompany his parents” that
rendered his departure involuntary, he had made no “reentry”
upon his return on which to predicate a ground of deportation.
Id. Matter of Zamora, 17 I. & N. Dec. at 397, expressly overrules Bauer, but states that “to the extent that Matter of Bauer
. . . can be cited for the general proposition that, because a
minor child is compelled to accompany his parents if they
depart from the United States, the intent of the parents with
regard to the departure (i.e., whether or not they, the parents,
intend to abandon their resident status) is imputed to the
accompanying child, Bauer still stands.” It is not clear, however, that Bauer does stand for this general proposition, and
Matter of Zamora cites to no other authority to support its reasoning. As a result, the source of the BIA’s position with
respect to imputation of abandonment of LPR status remains
Nevertheless, we agree with our concurring colleague that,
because the BIA is charged with explaining what constitutes
KHOSHFAHM v. HOLDER
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a “returning resident immigrant within the meaning of [INA
§ 101(a)(27)(A)],” id., we defer to its interpretation to the
extent that it is reasonable. Cf. Trung Thanh Hoang v. Holder,
641 F.3d 1157, 1160 (9th Cir. 2011) (noting that we apply
Chevron deference “to the BIA’s reasonable interpretations of
ambiguous terms in the INA”); Abebe v. Gonzales, 493 F.3d
1092, 1100-01 (9th Cir. 2007) (noting that the “principles of
deference to administrative agency decisions . . . are applicable when a court reviews the BIA’s interpretation of the
 Imputation of abandonment of LPR status from parents
to child is, in many cases, consistent with our precedent.
Although we have never expressly opined on the issue, we do
in several other areas of immigration law impute “the parent’s
status, intent, or state of mind” to a child residing with the
parent. See Saucedo-Arevalo v. Holder, 636 F.3d 532, 532-33
(9th Cir. 2011) (listing cases). As we have firmly recognized,
“children are, legally speaking, incapable of forming the necessary intent to remain indefinitely in a particular place . . .
and thus cannot determine their own domicile . . . .” MercadoZazueta, 580 F.3d at 1106 (holding that imputation applies for
purposes of the five-year permanent residence requirement)
(internal citations and quotation marks omitted). Because a
child cannot legally form an intent as to his domicile, imputation from parent to child of abandonment of LPR status while
the child is in the parents’ custody and control is certainly, in
cases such as this, reasonable.2
The inability of a child to form an intent as to domicile does not, however, support imputation of abandonment of LPR status in every circumstance. Assume, for example, that LPR parents leave the country, but their
LPR child stays in the United States to attend school or live with a relative. The parents’ length of stay abroad, and their lack of continuous intent
to return to the United States, could result in a finding that they abandoned
their LPR status. In that case, it may be unreasonable to impute the parents’ abandonment to the child since the child never left the United States.
In such a case, then, that the child is unable legally to demonstrate his own
intent as to his residence would be of no significance.
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KHOSHFAHM v. HOLDER
 This petition for review does not call on us to fully
explore or firmly opine on the full extent to which imputation
of abandonment of LPR status is reasonable, or on its possible
limitations; we reserve this question for a later date. Under the
BIA decisions and our own precedent, we hold that, because
a child cannot legally form an intent as to domicile, the intent
of the child’s LPR parents as to whether they will return to
live in the United States is imputed to the child (over whom
the parents have custody and control) during the period of the
child’s unemancipation. At the point at which the child
becomes an adult, however, he may legally demonstrate his
intent separate from that of his parents.
Under this legal framework, the intent of his parents governs Khoshfahm’s status during the period of time before he
turned 18. From the moment he reached 18, however, his own
intent controls. See generally Rangel-Zuazo v. Holder, 633
F.3d 848, 851 (9th Cir. 2011) (establishing that 18 is the legal
age of adulthood).
 Since the Khoshfahm family lived for six years in Iran
before he returned to the United States, the BIA correctly concluded that their trip abroad was not “relatively short.” See
Singh, 113 F.3d at 1514 (concluding that the petitioner’s trips
abroad, “sometimes eight or nine months in consecutive duration,” were not “relatively short”). Thus, we next consider
whether substantial evidence supports the conclusion that the
This example simply illustrates the point that, although reasonable in
this case, imputation of abandonment of LPR status from parent to child
may not be appropriate in every circumstance. In reviewing BIA decisions, therefore, we must take care to uphold this doctrine only to the
extent that its application is reasonable and consistent with “the sensible
meaning of the [INA].” See Mercado-Zazueta v. Holder, 580 F.3d at 1104
(internal citation and quotation marks omitted).
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government demonstrated by “clear, convincing, and unequivocal evidence” that Khoshfahm’s parents lacked a “continuous, uninterrupted intention to return to the United States”
during the period of time before Khoshfahm turned 18, or,
alternatively, that Khoshfahm himself lacked such intent after
becoming emancipated. See id. Only if substantial evidence
supports the conclusion that the government sufficiently made
one of these two showings can we uphold the BIA’s conclusion that Khoshfahm abandoned his status.
We first consider whether Khoshfahm’s parents abandoned
their LPR status before Khoshfahm turned 18 such that their
abandonment was imputed to him. In other words, we must
evaluate whether substantial evidence supports the conclusion
that the government met its burden of demonstrating by clear,
unequivocal, and convincing evidence that Khoshfahm’s parents lacked the intent to return to the United States, or abandoned their LPR status, before Khoshfahm became
emancipated. If their abandonment did not occur until after
Khoshfahm turned 18, then it cannot be imputed to Khoshfahm.
 The record before us compels the conclusion that the
government did not meet its burden. Khoshfahm credibly testified that his parents always intended to return to the United
States. He further testified that his parents were prevented
from returning by the September 11th attacks and then by his
father’s heart condition. The record therefore demonstrates
that, for a significant portion of their time in Iran, the event
for which Khoshfahm’s parents were waiting, and the point at
which they intended to return to the United States, was the
improvement of the father’s condition such that his ability to
fly was no longer restricted. During his hearing before the IJ,
Khoshfahm (then 19) indicated that his father’s condition had,
by that time, improved, and that he had permission to fly but
had not yet bought a ticket. The BIA expressly relied upon
this fact to conclude that Khoshfahm’s parents had abandoned
their status. Assuming, then, that Khoshfahm’s parents ini-
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KHOSHFAHM v. HOLDER
tially abandoned their status at the point when his father
became able to fly but chose not to buy a ticket (as this suggests that the parents ceased to maintain their continuous and
uninterrupted intent to return to the United States),3 it remains
unclear from the record when this change occurred.4 In other
words, the record contains no evidence of whether Khoshfahm’s parents’ abandonment occurred before or after Khoshfahm turned 18. It is the government’s burden to demonstrate
by clear, unequivocal, and convincing evidence that Khoshfahm’s parents abandoned during the legally relevant period
of time, that is, during the period of time when that abandonment must be imputed to Khoshfahm. Because the record
does not contain any evidence of when the abandonment
occurred (if it ever occurred), we find that substantial evidence does not support the conclusion that the government
met its burden with respect to Khoshfahm’s abandonment by
 Thus, we are left only to consider Khoshfahm’s own
actions as an adult. Khoshfahm credibly testified that he
wanted to return to the United States during the entirety of his
time in Iran. As soon as he reached 18, the age of adulthood,
he immediately obtained the permanent passport that allowed
him to travel alone. He then sought readmission to the United
States just months after his 18th birthday. Thus, for the period
of time during which the law recognizes his intent, Khoshfahm’s actions clearly demonstrate his intent to return to live
in the United States. In other words, there is no evidence
whatsoever that Khoshfahm himself abandoned his LPR status. Cf. Matter of Zamora, 17 I. &. N. Dec. at 397 n.2 (noting
As previously noted, Khoshfahm’s parents did eventually buy tickets
and return to the United States. As this fact was not apparently before the
BIA, we do not rely upon it.
To be clear, the father’s failure to buy a ticket despite his ability to do
so is critical because the record otherwise reflects that the parents maintained, during the period of Khoshfahm’s unemancipation, a continuous
intent to return to the United States.
KHOSHFAHM v. HOLDER
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that the petitioner did not seek to return to the United States
until he was “well over the age of majority”).
The record therefore compels the conclusion that the government failed to make the showing necessary to support a
finding of abandonment. In light of this holding, we need not
reach Khoshfahm’s requests for asylum and withholding of
We conclude that substantial evidence does not support the
BIA’s determination that Khoshfahm abandoned his LPR status. Therefore, he remains a Lawful Permanent Resident of
the United States, and he is not removable.
SMITH, N.R., Circuit Judge, concurring:
I write separately, because it is not necessary to speculate
about potential exceptions to an imputation rule as the majority has done in section III.B of its opinion. There are no applicable exceptions to the rule in this case.
“[B]oth the BIA and this court repeatedly have held that a
parent’s status, intent, or state of mind is imputed to the parent’s unemancipated minor child in many areas of immigration law, including asylum, grounds of inadmissibility, and
legal residency status.” Cuevas-Gaspar v. Gonzales, 430 F.3d
1013, 1024 (9th Cir. 2005). This court has not specifically
addressed imputing a parent’s abandonment of LPR status to
their unemancipated child. However, imputing parents’ abandonment of LPR status to their children is consistent with our
authority.1 As this court set forth in Saucedo-Arevalo v.
Although not addressing this abandonment, we have cited the BIA’s
precedent on imputation, Matter of Huang, 19 I. & N. Dec. 749 (BIA
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KHOSHFAHM v. HOLDER
“a parent’s admission for permanent resident status
is imputed to the parent’s unemancipated minor children residing with the parent.” [Cuevas-Gaspar v.
Gonzales, 430 F.3d]at 1029; see also MercadoZazueta v. Holder, 580 F.3d 1102, 1103 (9th Cir.
2009) (holding that imputation applies for purposes
of the five-year permanent residence requirement
under 8 U.S.C. § 1229b(a)(1)); Vang v. INS, 146
F.3d 1114, 1116-17 (9th Cir. 1998) (holding that
imputation applies for purposes of whether a minor
has “firmly resettled” in another country); LepeGuitron v. INS, 16 F.3d 1021, 1024 (9th Cir. 1994)
(holding that a parent’s “lawful unrelinquished
domicile” is imputed to “a child, [who] legally
entered the United States with his parents, was
always legally within the country, was domiciled
here, but acquired permanent resident status, still as
a minor, many years after his parents achieved it”);
Senica v. INS, 16 F.3d 1013, 1016 (9th Cir. 1994)
(holding that a parent’s knowledge or state of mind
concerning a fraudulent application is imputed to the
parent’s child with respect to grounds for inadmissibility).
636 F.3d 532, 533 (9th Cir. 2011). Given our court’s precedent that (1) a parent’s residency in the United States and (2)
a parent’s state of mind concerning a fraudulent application is
imputed to a minor, it would be illogical to hold (under most
circumstances) that the abandonment of LPR status would not
The BIA has addressed this issue in at least three precedential opinions, Huang, Zamora, and Winkens, holding that par1988); Matter of Zamora, 17 I. & N. Dec. 395 (BIA 1980); and Matter of
Winkens, 15 I. & N. Dec. 451 (BIA 1975), on several occasions. See
Cuevas-Gaspar, 430 F.3d at 1025; Mercado-Zazueta v. Holder, 580 F.3d
1102, 1104-05 (9th Cir. 2009).
KHOSHFAHM v. HOLDER
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ents’ abandonment of their LPR status is imputed to their
children. These decisions are entitled to deference under
Chevron. See Marmolejo-Campos v. Holder, 558 F.3d 903,
911 (9th Cir. 2009) (“[W]e apply Chevron deference regardless of whether the order under review is the precedential
decision itself or a subsequent unpublished order that relies
upon it.”). Despite acknowledging these decisions and their
binding effect, the majority appears to try and lessen the precedential value of these cases by suggesting that they should
not necessarily be afforded deference, because the BIA cites
to no authority to support their position. Specifically, the
majority notes that the case of Matter of Bauer, 10 I. & N.
Dec. 304 (BIA 1963) overruled in part by Zamora, 17 I. &
N. Dec. at 397 (from which this line of authority was derived)
does not stand for the proposition that a parent’s intent is
imputed to the minor child. However, the source of the BIA’s
holdings is not necessarily relevant under an analysis under
Chevron. All three of these decisions are published opinions
to which we defer as long as “the agency’s answer is based
on a permissible construction of the statute.” Chevron U.S.A.
Inc v. Nat. Res. Def. Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837, 843 (1984).
The BIA’s answer is a reasonable construction of the statute.
The imputing of a “parent’s status, intent, or state of mind . . .
to the parent’s unemancipated minor child” has long been the
standard in this circuit. See Saucedo-Arevalo, 636 F.3d at 533.
I find no basis to diverge from this general rule in cases of
abandonment. The majority conjures up possible exceptions
and limitations (which have not been before the BIA) to suggest that the BIA’s rule may not be reasonable in the future.
However, our case does not present any such limitations.
Under the circumstances presented here, I would accord the
BIA’s opinions in Huang, Zamora, and Winkens deference
and hold that a parent’s intent with respect to the abandonment of LPR status is imputed to a minor child during the
period of his unemancipation.
However, because the issue before us turns on when
Khoshfahm’s parents intended to abandon their LPR status,
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KHOSHFAHM v. HOLDER
we need not speculate about potential exceptions and concerns raised by imputing a parent’s abandonment of LPR status to his or her minor child.
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