SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A Filipino general accused of trying to overthrow the Philippine government in the late 1980s won a reprieve Tuesday from an immigration board's order that he be removed from the United States.
A federal appeals court said the Board of Immigration Appeals used the wrong standard of review when it determined Jose Zumel should be deported to the Philippines because he had engaged in terrorist activity.
An immigration judge found the 1989 coup Zumel was accused of participating in against President Corazon Aquino did not constitute terrorist activity because it did not include any intent to endanger individuals or cause substantial property damage.
In its ruling Tuesday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the Board of Immigration Appeals was supposed to determine whether the judge's decision was clearly wrong, but instead conducted its own review of the facts and reached the opposite conclusion that there was intent to endanger people. It sent the case back down to the board for review.
"The BIA may determine that an (immigration judge's) factual findings are clearly erroneous if the findings are 'illogical or implausible,' or without 'support in inferences that may be drawn from the facts in the record,' " Circuit Judge Sandra Ikuta wrote. "If the BIA reviews the (immigration judge's) factual findings de novo instead of for clear error, or makes its own factual findings, 'it has committed an error of law.' "
Kathryn Mattingly, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department's Executive Office for Immigration Review, said the agency does not comment on such decisions.
Zumel was a general in the Philippine Air Force who was loyal to Aquino's predecessor, Ferdinand Marcos, according to the 9th Circuit ruling.
The coup Zumel was accused of helping to plan was put down with help from the U.S. government. Zumel was eventually granted amnesty by the Philippine government and became a permanent U.S. resident in 2001.
Immigration officials, however, said his application falsely stated that he had never been charged with violating any law in the United States or elsewhere, and he had never been a beneficiary of amnesty. They initiated proceedings to have him removed.