U.S. Eleventh Circuit - The FindLaw 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Deported Contra Rebel Gets Another Chance

Trapped in a trailer in the Nicaraguan jungle, Contra rebel "Roger" Ricardo Alfaro made a decision that would change his life decades later -- he just didn't know it.

He had been moving some Sandanista prisoners, who were chained together, when they started to take fire. After one prisoner was killed, Alfaro cut off the man's hand so the rest could move on without the dead weight.

For his actions, Alfaro was confined to the trailer. That story that would come back to haunt him more than 30 years later in a U.S. immigration proceeding.

"Willful Misrepresentation"

Alfaro came to the United States in 1981 on a non-immigrant tourist's visa. He successfully petitioned to change his status to a permanent resident a year later.

Thirty-one years later, however, he was subject to deportation for committing crimes under the Immigration and Nationality Act. Among other crimes, he was charged for "willful misrepresentation" on his permanent resident application.

In this application, he said that he had not been "arrested, convicted or confined to a prison." But an immigration judge ruled that he should be removed from the country because he had misrepresented what happened in the jungle trailer.

Alfaro was deported, but he petitioned for review in Roger Ricardo Alfaro v. U.S. Attorney General.

Not a Prison

The U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, saying that Alfaro was not imprisoned because the Contras were not the government. The trailer was not a prison.

"It was nothing like a military prison," the court said. "The Contras were not military personnel, they were insurgents, and they were not acting under any governmental or legal authority to detain him."

While the U.S. government had in fact backed and trained the Contras, the court said the Contras did not even have authority to charge Alfaro with a crime because they lacked authority.

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