Justia Immigration Law Opinion Summaries

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Petitioner Everett Johnson, a citizen of the Bahamas, became a United States permanent resident in 1977. But in 2016, he pleaded guilty to possessing a schedule II controlled substance in violation of Colorado law. Soon after, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) charged Johnson as removable from the United States based on the state drug conviction. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) then ordered Johnson’s removal from the United States back to the Bahamas. He appealed, challenging that the state drug conviction subjected him to deportation from the United States. The Tenth Circuit determined Colorado Revised Statute section 18-18-403.5(1), (2)(a) was overbroad and indivisible as to the identity of a particular controlled substance. Therefore, Johnson’s conviction could not subject him to removal from the United States. The Court therefore granted Johnson’s petition for review, vacated the BIA’s order, and remanded to the BIA for further proceedings. View "Johnson v. Barr" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit denied in part and dismissed in part a petition for review of the BIA's decision affirming the IJ's denial of petitioner's application for asylum, withholding of removal, and relief under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). As a preliminary matter, the court lacked jurisdiction to consider two of petitioner's claims based on his failure to exhaust administrative remedies. The court held that petitioner failed to show that the IJ and BIA erred in denying his request for asylum. In this case, the BIA did not err in finding that the attack and death threats against petitioner did not amount to past persecution. Furthermore, the IJ and BIA reasonably concluded that petitioner failed to show that his subjective fear of persecution on his return to Albania was objectively reasonable. Because petitioner did not qualify for asylum, he necessarily did not meet the higher threshold for establishing eligibility for withholding of removal. The court noted that its decision does not diminish the injury that petitioner and many other foreign nationals too often suffer in their home countries simply for holding unpopular political beliefs. The court stated that how our Nation deals with refugees is a political decision for the political branches to make. View "Gjetani v. Barr" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit denied a petition for review of the BIA's order dismissing petitioner's appeal from an IJ's decision denying deferral of removal under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). As a preliminary matter, the court held that it need not determine whether the BIA applied an incorrect legal standard of review, because petitioner did not raise the aggregate risk argument before the BIA. The court held that the BIA correctly found that res judicata did not bar consideration of past torture petitioner suffered in the 1980s and any error by the IJ in concluding otherwise was harmless both because the IJ nevertheless considered that evidence and because the BIA also considered the evidence and applied the correct legal standard. The court also held that substantial evidence in the record supports the BIA's conclusion that petitioner's argument that he would likely be tortured upon return to Iraq was based on a chain of assumptions and speculation. View "Alzawed v. Barr" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit denied petitions for review of the BIA's final order of removal denying petitioner's application for deferral of removal under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). As a preliminary matter, the court held that it was precluded from reviewing the issue of whether the BIA incorrectly applied the clear error standard of review and engaged in improper factfinding, because petitioner had not exhausted his administrative remedies as to these issues when he filed his initial petition, and because, after exhausting, he never properly petitioned this court to review them. The court also held that the BIA did not err in finding that petitioner had failed to meet his burden of persuasion that he is more likely than not to be tortured if returned to South Sudan. In this case, the BIA's decision is supported by substantial evidence because the BIA correctly concluded that petitioner must show more than a pattern of general ethnic violence in South Sudan to meet the CAT's likelihood requirement. Therefore, a reasonable adjudicator could have found the evidence insufficient to establish a likelihood of torture. View "Lasu v. Barr" on Justia Law

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Marqus, a citizen of Iraq, was admitted to the U.S. as a refugee in 2012 and later adjusted his status to Lawful Permanent Resident. In 2017, he was convicted of attempted criminal sexual conduct. In removal proceedings, against the government’s objections, the IJ admitted three expert declarations concerning country conditions. Marqus believes that he would be tortured if he were to return to Iraq because he is Chaldean Christian; was previously tortured by and deserted from the Iraqi military; was previously targeted, abused, and threatened by the El Mahdi army; and lacks documentation to travel within Iraq without being stopped and tortured. The IJ determined that Marqus was ineligible for withholding of removal because the “particularly serious crime” bar applied, 8 U.S.C. 1158(b)(2)(A)(ii) or for protection under the Convention Against Torture. The BIA dismissed his appeal and denied his request to consider new evidence: an additional country-conditions expert declaration, the Department of State 2017 Human Rights Report on Iraq, and the 2017 International Religious Freedom Report on Iraq. The Sixth Circuit affirmed in part but remanded. It is not clear that the new evidence materially changes Marqus’s chances of obtaining CAT relief but that evidence, particularly the reports, could be significant. Without an analysis by the BIA of why this evidence is immaterial, it is impossible to determine whether the BIA abused its discretion. View "Marqus v. Barr" on Justia Law

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After USCIS denied plaintiff's application for lawful-permanent-resident status by finding that he failed to continuously maintain lawful status prior to the filing of his application and was thus ineligible for an adjustment of status pursuant to 8 U.S.C. 1255(c)(2), plaintiff filed suit alleging that his lapse in lawful status was excused. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the USCIS and held that plaintiff was ineligible for adjustment of status to lawful-permanent-resident status because he failed to establish that his lapse in lawful immigration status was "through no fault of his own or for technical reasons." The panel held that a "technical violation" occurs under 8 C.F.R. 245.1(d)(2)(ii) only if the violation is a consequence or effect of USCIS's inaction on a pending application. In this case, a "technical violation" occurs only if the alien's application to maintain lawful status is ultimately granted. The panel concluded that the text is not "genuinely ambiguous" and noted that it need not grant Auer deference. The panel stated that plaintiff's lapse in lawful status was not caused by USCIS's inaction. Rather, plaintiff's lapse resulted from his substantive ineligibility for an extension of his B-1 visa. View "Attias v. Crandall" on Justia Law

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Sathanthrasa is a citizen of Sri Lanka and a Tamil, an ethnic minority group that has been persecuted by government forces and the paramilitary Karuna Group. In 2007, Sathanthrasa’s brothers were kidnapped. Sathanthrasa reported the kidnappings to the Human Rights Commission without ascribing blame to the Karuna Group. The Karuna Group abducted and beat him; he suffered “internal injur[ies].” Days later, his father was beaten by men looking for Sathanthrasa, who fled but was picked up by armed officers, detained, and interrogated. Over the next six years, kidnappings remained commonplace. While acquiring the funds needed to leave, Sathanthrasa lived openly with his wife and children. Upon entering the U.S., Sathanthrasa sought asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture. An IJ granted Sathanthrasa withholding of removal, citing the likelihood that Sathanthrasa would be “tortured or persecuted” if he returned to Sri Lanka but denied Sathanthrasa’s petition for asylum “as a matter of discretion,” stating that Sathanthrasa’s history did not amount to past persecution and that Sathanthrasa's explanation for the delay was “unpersuasive.” Only asylum provides a pathway to legal permanent resident status and a basis to petition for admission of family members. The Third Circuit vacated. When a petitioner is denied asylum but granted withholding, the denial of asylum “shall be reconsidered,” and the IJ must consider the “reasons for the denial” and “reasonable alternatives available” to the petitioner for family reunification, 8 C.F.R. 1208.16(e). The IJ failed to consider those factors, thereby abusing his discretion. View "Sathanthrasa v. Attorney General United States" on Justia Law

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The district court decided that the government was not authorized under 8 C.F.R. 241.14(d) to continue holding petitioner in immigration detention pending his removal from the United States and ordered the government to release him. The government appealed and argued that section 241.14(d) is not inconsistent with its authorizing statute, 8 U.S.C. 1231(a)(6), and that it provides adequate procedural due process. The Second Circuit granted the government's motion for a stay pending appeal, holding that the government has made a strong showing that it is likely to succeed on the merits of its argument that the district court erred in holding that section 241.14(d) is inconsistent with section 1231(a)(6) and does not provide adequate procedural due process. The court also held that the government has made a strong showing of a likelihood of success on its argument that the district court erred in holding that section 241.14(d) is not a permissible reading of section 1231(a)(6). Furthermore, considerations of irreparable harm and the equities favor a stay of petitioner's release pending appeal. View "Hassoun v. Searls" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit denied a petition for review challenging petitioner's removal for committing two crimes involving moral turpitude (CIMT). The panel held that the BIA did not err in concluding that a California Penal Code 646.9(a) criminal stalking conviction qualifies as a CIMT because a section 646.9(a) offense is categorically a CIMT. The panel stated that the BIA's reliance on In re Ajami, 22 I. & N. Dec. 949 (B.I.A. 1999), to determine that a section 646.9(a) criminal stalking conviction constitutes a CIMT is entitled to Skidmore deference, rather than Chevron deference. Pursuant to the panel's review of the statutory text and in light of its CIMT precedents, the panel concluded that section 646.9 does not plainly and specifically criminalize conduct outside the contours of the federal definition of a CIMT. The panel also held that the BIA reasonably concluded that petitioner's two section 646.9(a) counts of conviction did not arise out of a single scheme of criminal misconduct. In this case, Count 1 of the state felony complaint involved petitioner willfully and maliciously following and harassing one person between June 1, 2015 and April 26, 2017. Count 2 involved the same conduct by petitioner against a different person between March 1, 2017 and April 26, 2017. Accordingly, petitioner is removable as charged under 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(ii). View "Orellana v. Barr" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit denied a petition for review of the BIA's decision upholding the IJ's order of removal and denial of petitioner's applications for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). Petitioner argues that he should be granted relief from removal because he faces religious persecution if removed to China. The court identified no error in the denial of petitioner's claims where the agency's adverse credibility finding was supported by substantial evidence consisting of numerous testimonial inconsistencies and petitioner's evasive demeanor. Furthermore, the court rejected petitioner's argument that he satisfactorily explained the inconsistencies, because the explanations would not compel a reasonable factfinder to excuse the inconsistencies or credit petitioner's testimony. View "Likai Gao v. Barr" on Justia Law