Justia Immigration Law Opinion Summaries

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Buzzy Martinez was arrested and charged with transporting undocumented aliens hidden in his tractor-trailer after a U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) canine alerted to the vehicle. Martinez argued that the canine’s alerts could not provide the handler with the necessary reasonable suspicion to extend the stop of his vehicle and probable cause to search it because dogs are unable to reliably differentiate between the scents of a vehicle’s driver and concealed humans within the vehicle. The district court denied Martinez’s motion to suppress the evidence gathered from his vehicle, and he pleaded guilty while preserving his right to appeal the suppression ruling.The district court found that the USBP canine and its handler were adequately trained and certified to detect concealed humans, and that dogs are capable of detecting concealed humans. The court concluded that the canine’s alerts and indications were reliable, providing reasonable suspicion to extend the stop for a second sniff, and probable cause to search Martinez’s tractor-trailer after Martinez was removed from the vehicle. Martinez was sentenced to eighteen months in prison, followed by a term of supervised release of three years, and he appealed the ruling.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court held that the district court's finding that the canine was reliable in detecting concealed humans was not clearly erroneous. The court also noted that the canine was trained and certified to detect both concealed humans and controlled substances, and Martinez did not contest the canine's ability to detect controlled substances. Therefore, the canine's alert provided the handler with reasonable suspicion to investigate for and probable cause to search for controlled substances. The court concluded that the canine's alerts and indications at the primary inspection point provided reasonable suspicion to extend the stop and investigate for concealed humans, and at the secondary inspection point, after Martinez exited the vehicle and stated no one else was inside, the canine's continued alerts to the cab area of Martinez’s tractor-trailer provided probable cause to search the cab for concealed humans. View "United States v. Martinez" on Justia Law

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The case involves Hartono Djokro and his son William Djokro, citizens of Indonesia who entered the United States as nonimmigrant visitors and overstayed their visas. In 2007, Hartono Djokro filed an application for asylum, withholding of removal, and relief under the Convention Against Torture (CAT), including his son as a derivative applicant. They were served with notices to appear by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2008, charging them with removability for having remained in the United States longer than they had been authorized.In 2009, an immigration judge (IJ) denied their applications for asylum, withholding of removal, and relief under the CAT. The IJ found that the petitioners were ineligible for relief on several grounds, including that they had failed to establish a pattern or practice of persecution against either Chinese or Christians in Indonesia. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) upheld the IJ's decision in 2012. The petitioners' first motion to reopen was denied by the BIA in 2013.In the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, the petitioners sought review of the BIA's denial of their second untimely motion to reopen, filed in 2021. The court denied the petition, finding that the BIA reasonably concluded that the petitioners had failed to satisfy the requirements for an exception to late filing. The court held that the BIA did not abuse its discretion in finding that the petitioners failed to establish changed conditions or circumstances material to their eligibility for asylum or withholding of removal. The court found that the record amply supported the BIA's determination that the petitioners had not met their burden of showing that the exception for changed country conditions applies. View "Djokro v. Garland" on Justia Law

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David Orlando Marquez Cruz, a Salvadoran national and lawful permanent resident of the United States, was convicted of attempted second degree child sexual abuse under Washington, D.C., law. The conviction stemmed from a sexual relationship he had with a fifteen-year-old child. Following his conviction, the Department of Homeland Security charged him with removal under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) on the grounds of being a noncitizen convicted of a crime of child abuse, child neglect, or child abandonment, and as an aggravated felon. Cruz denied that he was removable and requested that his removal be cancelled as a matter of discretion.The immigration judge found Cruz removable based on his conviction of a crime of child abuse, but dismissed the aggravated felony removal charge. The judge declined to cancel Cruz’s removal and ordered him removed. Cruz appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), challenging the immigration judge’s finding that his D.C. conviction qualified as a crime of child abuse. The BIA agreed with the immigration judge and dismissed the appeal. Cruz then petitioned the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit for review.The Fourth Circuit held that Cruz’s conviction for attempted second degree child sexual abuse under D.C. law qualifies as a removable crime of child abuse. The court rejected Cruz’s arguments that a crime of child abuse under the INA does not cover attempts and that statutes imposing strict liability as to a victim’s age cannot satisfy the mens rea requirement because they do not require a culpable mental state. The court concluded that a crime of child abuse requires a culpable mens rea and an actus reus of conduct that either injures a child or creates a sufficiently high risk that a child will be harmed. The court denied Cruz's petition for review. View "Marquez Cruz v. Garland" on Justia Law

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The case involves Ninoska Suate-Orellana, who was ordered to be removed to Honduras in 2011 after her asylum application was denied. She reentered the U.S. illegally in 2014, and the Department of Homeland Security reinstated her prior removal order. Suate-Orellana filed a motion for reconsideration and termination of the underlying removal order, arguing that the Notice to Appear (NTA) in the original immigration proceedings was deficient under 8 U.S.C. § 1229(a)(1) because it did not state the time or date of her hearing. The immigration judge denied the motion, and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) dismissed her appeal.The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit granted Suate-Orellana’s petition for review of the BIA’s dismissal. The court found that Suate-Orellana had exhausted her claim that her NTA was statutorily deficient. The court also held that 8 U.S.C. § 1231(a)(5), which bars reopening or review of an order of removal that has been reinstated, is not jurisdictional. The court concluded that the government had forfeited its claim that § 1231(a)(5) barred reopening in this case. The case was remanded to the BIA for reconsideration of the merits of Suate-Orellana’s claim in light of intervening authorities. View "SUATE-ORELLANA V. GARLAND" on Justia Law

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Sergio Rosas-Martinez, who had been living in the United States since he was nine years old, was arrested in 2019 for possessing illegal drugs. Following his conviction, the Department of Homeland Security initiated removal proceedings. Rosas-Martinez applied for deferral of removal under the Convention Against Torture (CAT), arguing that if he returned to Mexico, the Sinaloa Cartel would kill or capture him because he lost their drugs when police arrested him. An immigration judge granted his CAT application, but the Board of Immigration Appeals reversed the decision. Rosas-Martinez then filed a motion for reconsideration with the Board, which was also denied.The Board of Immigration Appeals reversed the immigration judge's decision to grant Rosas-Martinez's CAT application. The Board found clear error in the immigration judge's predictive findings and legal error in the application of the law. The Board used the factual findings to show that the immigration judge clearly erred in predicting that Rosas-Martinez would be tortured if he returned to Mexico. The Board also justified its decision that the Mexican government would not acquiesce to or be directly involved in any torture of Rosas-Martinez, citing evidence of Mexico's recent efforts to purge corruption from its ranks.Rosas-Martinez then petitioned the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit to review the Board's reversal of the immigration judge's decision and its denial of his motion for reconsideration. The court denied both petitions for review, holding that the Board correctly applied its standard of review and refrained from independent fact finding. The court also found that the Board provided sufficient justification for its determination that the immigration judge erred in predicting that Rosas-Martinez would be tortured if he returned to Mexico and that the Mexican government would acquiesce to or be directly involved in his torture. View "Sergio Rosas-Martinez v. Garland" on Justia Law

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Thabet Mahdi Saleh, an Iraqi refugee, was granted asylum in the United States in 2010. However, after being convicted of crimes under Michigan law, the Department of Homeland Security initiated removal proceedings against him. Saleh sought asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT), fearing torture if he returned to Iraq due to his work with the U.S. Army and his mixed marriage. The immigration judge denied all forms of relief and ordered Saleh's removal. Saleh did not appeal this decision.In 2018, Saleh moved to reopen his proceedings, seeking deferral of removal under the CAT. He alleged changed country conditions and an increased risk of torture due to his past experiences and criminal convictions in the U.S. The immigration judge granted the motion to reopen but later denied Saleh’s application for relief. Saleh appealed this decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), which assumed Saleh’s credibility but found no error in the other decisions, thus denying Saleh’s petition.In the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, Saleh challenged the BIA's decision, arguing that the immigration judge erred by treating a key witness as a fact witness rather than an expert. However, the court found that Saleh's counsel had agreed to this treatment of the witness, and Saleh had not shown that the agency erred by treating the witness as a fact witness only. The court also found that the BIA had properly analyzed Saleh’s probability of torture in the aggregate, considering all the factors together. Therefore, the court denied Saleh's petition for review. View "Mahdi Saleh v. Garland" on Justia Law

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A family from Guatemala sought asylum in the United States after receiving death threats from a local gang. The family, led by Ana Luisa Donis-Hernandez de Cabrera, had fled their home country after an extortion attempt by the Mara 18 gang. Cabrera had opened a second-hand clothing store, which she ran from her home. After receiving a death threat demanding payment, the family decided to leave Guatemala and seek asylum in the U.S.The Immigration Judge (IJ) denied their applications for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT), finding them lacking in certain crucial respects. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) affirmed this decision. Cabrera and her family then filed a petition for review with the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.The Court of Appeals found no reversible error in the decisions of the lower courts. The court noted that to be granted asylum, the applicant must demonstrate that they were persecuted in the past or have a well-founded fear of future persecution in their home country on account of at least one of five statutorily protected characteristics. The court found that Cabrera's proposed particular social group (PSG) of "small business owners" did not meet the requirements for a legally cognizable PSG. The court also found that Cabrera's evidence was insufficient to establish her burden of proof for CAT protection. Therefore, the court denied the petition for review. View "Cabrera v. Garland" on Justia Law

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Sonia Rangel and her two minor children, Luisa and Mary Loredo, citizens of Mexico who entered the United States illegally, sought asylum, withholding of removal, and relief under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). They claimed they should be protected from removal due to their belief that the Mexican Navy would persecute and torture them to dissuade Rangel from her campaign against the Mexican military for the disappearance of her son. The Immigration Judge (I.J.) denied their applications, finding they had not established past persecution or a well-founded fear of future persecution, and were not eligible for CAT relief due to failure to establish the requisite likelihood of future torture. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) affirmed this decision.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reviewed the BIA's factual findings under the substantial evidence standard and its legal conclusions de novo. The court found that the evidence did not compel a conclusion that the petitioners had suffered past persecution or had a well-founded fear of future persecution. The court also found that the petitioners had not met the higher bar of showing it was more likely than not they would be tortured upon return to Mexico, which is required for CAT relief. Therefore, the court denied the petition for review, upholding the BIA's decision to deny the applications for asylum, withholding of removal, and CAT relief. View "Loredo Rangel v. Garland" on Justia Law

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The case involves a Venezuelan couple, Carlos Cuenca Figueredo and Yauri Rojas, who had a son, C.R. After their separation and divorce, they shared custody of C.R. in Venezuela. However, Rojas took C.R. to the United States without Figueredo's knowledge or permission. Twenty months after Rojas left Venezuela with C.R., Figueredo filed a petition in the Middle District of Florida seeking his son’s return under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.The Middle District of Florida found that C.R. was settled in his new environment in the United States. The court considered factors such as C.R.'s stable residence, school attendance, community participation, and Rojas's employment and financial stability. The court also took into account C.R. and his mother's immigration status, noting that Rojas had been granted authorization to remain and work in the United States while her asylum application was pending. Consequently, the court denied Figueredo's petition for C.R.'s return.The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the lower court's decision. The appellate court held that a child's immigration status is one relevant factor in determining whether a child is settled in a new environment. The court found that the district court did not err in finding that C.R. was settled in his new environment and did not abuse its discretion in refusing to order his return to Venezuela. View "Alberto Cuenca Figueredo v. Del Carmen Rojas" on Justia Law

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The case involves Jose Yanel Sanchez-Perez, a native and citizen of El Salvador, who entered the United States in 1998. In 2009, Sanchez-Perez pleaded guilty to committing misdemeanor domestic assault under Tennessee law. The following day, the Department of Homeland Security initiated removal proceedings against him. In 2015, an immigration judge found Sanchez-Perez ineligible for cancellation of removal because he failed to establish that he had been continuously present in the United States for ten years prior to receiving the notice to appear. However, the judge also found that Sanchez-Perez was not statutorily barred from seeking cancellation of removal due to his 2009 domestic-violence conviction.The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) dismissed Sanchez-Perez’s appeal and agreed with the immigration judge’s findings that Sanchez-Perez lacked the requisite continuous physical presence and thus was not eligible for cancellation of removal. In 2018, the immigration judge found that Sanchez-Perez’s 2009 conviction is categorically a crime of violence, and thus Sanchez-Perez was statutorily barred from obtaining cancellation of removal. The BIA dismissed Sanchez-Perez’s appeal from this decision.The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reviewed the case. The court found that the BIA erred in determining that Sanchez-Perez’s 2009 conviction was categorically a crime of violence, and thus Sanchez-Perez was statutorily barred from obtaining cancellation of removal. The court noted that the Tennessee statute at issue criminalizes conduct that does not require the use or threatened use of violent physical force. Therefore, the court granted Sanchez-Perez’s petition for review, vacated the BIA’s order, and remanded the case to the BIA for proceedings consistent with its opinion. View "Sanchez-Perez v. Garland" on Justia Law