Justia Immigration Law Opinion Summaries

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In this case, Jamie Avila Reyes, the appellant, appealed his 15-year prison sentence for crimes including homicide by vehicle in the first degree and driving under the influence of alcohol. Reyes, an undocumented immigrant, contended that the trial court improperly considered his immigration status during sentencing, violating his due process and equal protection rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. Reyes also argued that OCGA § 17-10-1.3, a Georgia statute that allows a trial court to consider potential deportation when determining whether to probate a convicted person's sentence, is unconstitutional both on its face and as applied to him.The Supreme Court of Georgia held that OCGA § 17-10-1.3 is constitutional. The court found that the statute survived rational basis review because it bears a rational relationship to the legitimate governmental interest in ensuring the complete execution of judicial sentences. The court also held that the trial court did not violate Reyes' due process or equal protection rights when it applied the statute and declined to probate any portion of his sentence due to his impending deportation. The court noted that there was no evidence the trial court based its sentence on discriminatory animus towards undocumented noncitizens. Therefore, the court affirmed the judgment of the trial court. View "REYES v. THE STATE" on Justia Law

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Mario Alejos-Perez, a Mexican citizen and lawful permanent resident of the United States, sought a review of a Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) final order of removal that found him removable under 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(2)(B)(i) based on his Texas conviction for possessing a synthetic cannabinoid. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit denied his petition for review. The court agreed with the BIA's conclusion that Alejos-Perez failed to prove there was a "realistic probability" that Texas would use the state statute he was convicted under to prosecute the possession of drugs that are not criminalized under federal law, which would mean his conviction would not be a removable offense. Alejos-Perez argued that the "realistic probability" standard should not apply, but the court rejected his argument, citing the rule of orderliness and the law of the case doctrine. The court also found that Alejos-Perez failed to exhaust his administrative remedies regarding several authorities he cited for the first time during his appeal. View "Alejos-Perez v. Garland" on Justia Law

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Israeil Guzman-Maldonado, a lawful permanent resident of the United States and a citizen of Mexico, was convicted of three counts of armed robbery under Arizona Revised Statutes (“A.R.S.”) § 13-1904(A) in 2019. He was sentenced to concurrent eight-year terms for the first two counts and two years of probation for the third. In 2022, an immigration judge ordered Guzman's removal because he had been convicted of an aggravated felony theft offense and two crimes involving moral turpitude not arising from a single scheme. Guzman appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals, which dismissed his appeal, prompting him to petition for review with the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.The Ninth Circuit denied Guzman's petition for review, concluding that a conviction for armed robbery under A.R.S. § 13-1904(A), for which the term of imprisonment imposed is at least one year, is categorically an aggravated felony theft offense under 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii), thereby giving rise to removability. Applying the categorical approach, the court compared the elements of the generic federal crime and of Arizona armed robbery and concluded that Guzman’s conviction under A.R.S. § 13-1904(A) necessarily required proof of each element of generic theft. The court rejected Guzman's arguments that the Arizona statute encompasses "consensual" takings or the theft of services, both of which would have made it broader than generic theft. View "GUZMAN-MALDONADO V. GARLAND" on Justia Law

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The case involves Robert Mestanek, a citizen of the Czech Republic, who filed two Form I-130 petitions to establish his eligibility for lawful permanent residence in the United States based on his marriages to two different U.S. citizens. The first petition was filed by his then-wife Angel Simmons, and the second by his current wife Mary Mestanek. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) denied both petitions, the first on the grounds that Robert’s marriage to Angel was fraudulent, and the second based on the “marriage fraud bar” which prohibits approval of Form I-130 petitions for any noncitizen who has previously been found to have entered into a fraudulent marriage to circumvent immigration laws. The Mestaneks filed suit in federal district court seeking judicial review of USCIS’s denial of Mary’s Form I-130 petition. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of USCIS, and the Mestaneks appealed. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the lower court's decision, agreeing that USCIS’s denial was neither arbitrary nor contrary to law. The court rejected all of the Mestaneks’ arguments, including their contention that USCIS applied the wrong legal standard for marriage fraud, and their assertion that the administrative record was incomplete and insufficient for judicial review. The court also found no due process violation by USCIS. View "Mestanek v. Jaddou" on Justia Law

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Yahye Herrow, a member of the minority Bandabow Tribe in Somalia, sought review of the Board of Immigration Appeals' (BIA) denial of his claims for withholding of removal and relief under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). Herrow, who had been granted asylum in 2000, was ordered to be removed following his 2018 conviction for Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud and Wire Fraud. The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit upheld the BIA's determination that "Repatriated Minority Somalis" did not constitute a cognizable social group for the purpose of withholding of removal. However, the court found that the BIA had failed to consider evidence favorable to Herrow's CAT claim, which contended that he was likely to face torture upon return to Somalia and that the Somali government would acquiesce to such torture. The court granted Herrow's petition in part and remanded the case to the BIA for a more comprehensive review of the evidence related to his CAT claim. View "Herrow v. Attorney General United States of America" on Justia Law

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In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit addressed an appeal by Evaristo Contreras Silva, a Mexican citizen who was convicted of possession of a firearm by an illegal alien under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(5). Silva entered the United States unlawfully and was detained by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2018. He was informed of his illegal status and given an I-94 form. Silva argued that he believed he was lawfully in the U.S. based on the I-94 form and his interactions with immigration officials. In February 2022, Silva was found in possession of a firearm after a domestic violence call from his wife. He was subsequently charged and convicted for firearm possession as an illegal alien.On appeal, Silva argued that the Government did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he knew he was unlawfully in the U.S. when he possessed the firearm. He based his belief on the I-94 form, advice from his immigration attorneys, adherence to his bond conditions, and various applications to change his status after his arrest.However, the court affirmed the conviction, holding that the Government provided sufficient evidence that Silva knew he was in the U.S. unlawfully when he possessed a firearm according to the standard set in Rehaif v. United States. The court considered Silva's unlawful entry, his detention by DHS, his admission of unlawful entry in an application for status adjustment, and the pending status of his immigration applications at the time he possessed the firearm. The court concluded that although there was evidence supporting Silva's belief of lawful presence, it did not justify a judgment of acquittal as the evidence was not definitive and the issue was appropriately presented to the jury. View "United States v. Silva" on Justia Law

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The case involves Indian citizens Sanket and Nehaben Patel who sued the Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Ur Jaddou, under the Administrative Procedure Act for unreasonable delay in processing their applications for U visas. After their visas were granted, the Director moved to dismiss the case for mootness and attached an exhibit showing the applications' approval. The Director then realized she had not filed the exhibit under seal, violating the rule prohibiting the disclosure of information relating to noncitizens who are U visa applicants and recipients. The Patels sought civil penalties for the disclosure of their personal information. The district court dismissed the case and denied the Patels' motion for civil penalties, stating that any disclosure was not willful.The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court held that the Director's disclosure of the Patels' visa application status was not "willful" under 8 U.S.C. § 1367(c). The court reasoned that the term "willful" refers to actions that are intentional or knowing, as opposed to accidental. The court noted that the Director realized her mistake in not filing the exhibit under seal, promptly contacted the court to seal the exhibit, and the information disclosed was already revealed in the Patels’ unsealed complaint. Therefore, the disclosure was not considered willful but at most amounted to negligence. View "Patel v. Jaddou" on Justia Law

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In this case before the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, Robert Franklyn Lodge, a native and citizen of Jamaica, challenged the constitutionality of a federal law regarding derivative citizenship. Lodge, born out of wedlock and abandoned by his mother, was brought to the United States by his naturalized father. After being convicted of aggravated felonies, the Department of Homeland Security sought to remove Lodge, who argued that he had derived citizenship from his father under a since-repealed statute. The immigration judge ordered Lodge removed to Jamaica, and the Board of Immigration Appeals dismissed Lodge’s appeal.Lodge argued that the former statute discriminated against unmarried fathers based on sex and against black children based on race. He asked the court to declare him a citizen, arguing that the statute, if cured of its constitutional defects, would have permitted his father to transmit citizenship to him. However, the court found that Lodge would not have derived citizenship from his father even under a version of the statute cured of its alleged constitutional defects. Consequently, the court denied Lodge's petition for review and deemed his motion to transfer as moot. View "Lodge v. United States Attorney General" on Justia Law

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In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reviewed a petition by Sintia Dines Nivar Santana, a native and citizen of the Dominican Republic, who sought to review a final order of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) that affirmed a decision by an immigration judge (IJ) declaring her ineligible for adjustment of status. Nivar was deemed inadmissible for falsely claiming to be a citizen of the United States. Her appeal presented two contentions of error. First, she argued that the IJ and BIA erroneously ruled that she was required to establish her admissibility “clearly and beyond doubt,” rather than by a preponderance of the evidence. Second, she contended that her evidentiary hearing before the IJ was fundamentally unfair due to the IJ’s erroneous admission of a Form I-9 (the “employment eligibility form”).The court rejected Nivar’s contentions of error and denied her petition for review. On the first point, the court ruled that the BIA and IJ did not err in applying the “clearly and beyond doubt” standard. The court explained that, for a noncitizen to qualify for adjustment of status, she must satisfy a statutory provision, which requires a noncitizen applying for adjustment of status to demonstrate that she is then and there admissible into the United States for permanent residence. The court stated that this requirement means that Nivar was required to prove — “clearly and beyond doubt” — that she did not falsely claim United States citizenship.On the second point, the court found that although the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) failed to timely submit the employment eligibility form, Nivar was not deprived of “the opportunity to be heard at a meaningful time and in a meaningful manner.” The court also determined that the admission of the form did not render the hearing fundamentally unfair. Therefore, the court concluded that Nivar’s evidentiary hearing did not violate due process considerations. View "Nivar Santana v. Garland" on Justia Law

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In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reviewed an order from the Board of Immigration Appeals which denied asylum and withholding of removal to three petitioners from El Salvador. The petitioners claimed they were threatened and harmed by local MS-13 gang members because a relative ended her relationship with the gang’s leader, and they feared further harm if returned to El Salvador.The petitioners challenged the Immigration Judge's (IJ) credibility determination, arguing that the IJ’s mixed credibility finding was neither permissible nor explicit as required by law. The court disagreed, finding that the IJ explicitly stated that she made a mixed finding on credibility, which is permissible under the law. The court further clarified that an IJ may make a partial or mixed adverse credibility determination so long as substantial evidence supports it.The petitioners also argued that the Board's decision was unsupported by substantial evidence because the Board concluded that the petitioners were targeted for pecuniary reasons, rather than due to their familial relationship. The court disagreed, finding that substantial evidence supported the Board's conclusion that the harms suffered by the petitioners were motivated by pecuniary gain rather than familial ties. The court therefore denied the petition for review. View "Ayala-Osegueda v. Garland" on Justia Law