(CN) – A South Korean brother and sister who unwittingly received green cards through a bribery scam led by a former U.S. immigration officer might be eligible to stay in the United States, the 9th Circuit ruled. The court said the siblings appeared to be “innocent bystanders” to the fraudulent scheme.
Kyong Ho Shin and Jin Hee Shin became legal permanent residents though the criminal conspiracy of Leland Sustaire, who was eventually convicted of conspiring to bribe a public official.
He and his collaborators conspired with Koreans and Korean-American middlemen to produce fraudulent green cards.
“Essentially this was a bribes for green cards scheme,” the federal appeals court wrote.
The Shins got visas based on their mother’s green card, which she had obtained through an immigration broker affiliated with Sustaire.
The siblings faced deportation because they lacked valid visas when they entered the United States.
The immigration judge conceded that the Shins’ mother “had not knowingly and willfully engaged in fraud,” but said the visas were still invalid, as they could be traced to the green card scam.
The judge ordered their removal and denied their bid for a waiver. The Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed.
On appeal, the 9th Circuit ruled 2-1 that because the Shins were admissible for reasons other than their invalid visas, they are eligible to apply for a waiver.
“By all account in the present record, the Shins were innocent bystanders to Sustaire’s fraudulent arrangement,” Judge M. Margaret McKeown wrote for the San Francisco-based panel.
Dissenting Judge J. Clifford Wallace insisted the Shins have no basis for admission, despite their apparent innocence.
“The Shins were not ‘substantively qualified’ for the visas that they received and thus not ‘otherwise admissible,'” Wallace wrote.