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The First Circuit denied Petitioner’s petition for review of the Board of Immigration Appeals’ (BIA) decision affirming the Immigration Judge’s (IJ) denial of her application for withholding of removal. Petitioner, a native and citizen of Guatemala, was charged with removability. Petitioner conceded removability but then applied for withholding of removal and for protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). The IJ denied relief, and the BIA affirmed, concluding that Petitioner did not establish that she would likely be harmed by criminal gangs in Guatemala based upon an enumerated ground. Petitioner contested only the BIA’s ruling affirming the denial of her request for withholding of removal. The First Circuit held that there was substantial evidence to support the BIA’s findings. View "Marroquin-Rivera v. Sessions" on Justia Law

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Petitioner sought review of the BIA's denial of his motion to reopen proceedings to apply for protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). Petitioner feared that he would be tortured on account of his sexual orientation if he is removed to his home country of Ethiopia. The Ninth Circuit held that it had jurisdiction over the petition pursuant to the exception to the jurisdictional bar of 8 U.S.C. 252(a)(2)(C) for reviewing mixed questions of law and fact, because the petition here required the panel to apply the law to undisputed facts. The panel also held that the BIA abused its discretion by disregarding or discrediting the undisputed new evidence submitted by petitioner regarding increased violence toward homosexuals in Ethiopia, including reports of violence by both the government and private citizens. Accordingly, the panel granted the petition for review. View "Agonafer v. Sessions" on Justia Law

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Lee moved to the U.S. from South Korea with his parents when he was 13. For 35 years he never returned to South Korea, nor did he become a U.S. citizen. He is a lawful permanent resident. In 2008, Lee admitted possessing ecstasy with intent to distribute. His attorney repeatedly assured him that he would not be deported as a result of pleading guilty. Lee accepted a plea and was sentenced to a year and a day in prison. His conviction was an “aggravated felony,” 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(43)(B), so he was subject to mandatory deportation. When Lee learned of this consequence, he moved to vacate his conviction, arguing that his attorney had provided constitutionally ineffective assistance. Lee and his plea-stage counsel testified that “deportation was the determinative issue” in Lee's decision to accept a plea. Lee’s counsel acknowledged that although Lee’s defense was weak, if he had known Lee would be deported upon pleading guilty, he would have advised him to go to trial. The Sixth Circuit affirmed denial of relief. The Supreme Court reversed. Lee established that he was prejudiced by erroneous advice, demonstrating a “reasonable probability that, but for counsel’s errors, he would not have pleaded guilty and would have insisted on going to trial.” The Court stated that the inquiry demands a “case-by-case examination.” A defendant’s decisionmaking may not turn solely on the likelihood of conviction after trial. When the inquiry is focused on what an individual defendant would have done, the possibility of even a highly improbable result may be pertinent to the extent it would have affected the defendant’s decisionmaking. The Court reasoned that it could not say that it would be irrational for someone in Lee’s position to risk additional prison time in exchange for holding on to some chance of avoiding deportation. View "Lee v. United States" on Justia Law

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Maslenjak is an ethnic Serb who resided in Bosnia during the civil war. In 1998, she and her family sought refugee status in the U.S.. Interviewed under oath, Maslenjak explained that the family feared persecution: Muslims would mistreat them because of their ethnicity, and Serbs would abuse them because Maslenjak’s husband had evaded service in the Bosnian Serb Army. They were granted refugee status. Years later, Maslenjak applied for citizenship and swore that she had never given false information to a government official while applying for an immigration benefit or lied to an official to gain entry. She was naturalized. It later emerged Maslenjak had known all along that her husband spent the war years as an officer in the Bosnian Serb Army. The government charged Maslenjak with knowingly “procur[ing], contrary to law, [her] naturalization,” 18 U.S.C. 1425(a). The Supreme Court vacated her conviction, reversing the Sixth Circuit. Section 1425(a) makes clear that, to secure a conviction, the government must establish that the defendant’s illegal act played a role in her acquisition of citizenship. Under the government’s reading “Some legal violations that do not justify denying citizenship would nonetheless justify revoking it later.” The statute Congress passed strips a person of citizenship not when she committed any illegal act during the naturalization process, but only when that act played some role in her naturalization. The government must prove that the misrepresented fact was sufficiently relevant to a naturalization criterion that it would have prompted reasonable officials, “seeking only evidence concerning citizenship qualifications,” to undertake further investigation. If that is true, the inquiry turns to the prospect that the investigation would have borne disqualifying fruit. When the government can make its two-part showing, the defendant may overcome it by establishing that she was nonetheless qualified for citizenship. View "Maslenjak v. United States" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, a native and citizen of Mexico, challenged the BIA's decision affirming the IJ's finding that he was not eligible for cancellation of removal or voluntary departure because he had a prior criminal conviction for a crime involving moral turpitude (CIMT). The Eighth Circuit denied the petition for review, holding that the BIA did not err by affirming the IJ's finding that petitioner had a conviction for Aggravated Forgery and that he was ineligible for cancellation of removal. The court held that petitioner's probation, community service, and fines constitute court-imposed penalties under 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(48). View "Mendoza-Saenz v. Sessions" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, a native and citizen of Grenada, sought review of the BIA's decision affirming the IJ's denial of his applications for cancellation of removal, asylum, withholding of removal, and relief under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). The applications were denied based on petitioner's conviction under NYPL 220.31 for criminal sale of a controlled substance in the fifth degree. The Second Circuit held that NYPL 220.31 defines a single crime and is therefore an indivisible statute. Therefore, the BIA should have applied the categorical approach. Applying the categorical approach, the court held that petitioner's conviction did not constitute a commission of an aggravated felony and consequently did not bar him from seeking cancellation of removal and asylum. The court held that it lacked jurisdiction to consider the remainder of the petition. Accordingly, the court granted the petition in part, vacated the BIA's rulings in part, and remanded. View "Harbin v. Sessions" on Justia Law

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After petitioner committed a drug crime but before his crime was adjudicated, Congress passed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA), 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(13)(C)(v). At issue was whether the statute can be given effect with respect to petitioner's crime, even though he committed the crime before the statute's passage. The Second Circuit held that the presumption against retroactive legislation barred such an application because the plain text of the statute attaches legal consequences at the time a lawful permanent resident commits a crime, rather than at the time of conviction. Accordingly, the court granted the petition for review, vacated the BIA's order of removal, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Centurion v. Sessions" on Justia Law

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Herrera-Ramirez is a citizen of Mexico but has lived in the U.S. since she was six years old. She is married and has four U.S.-citizen children. She was at a Milwaukee bar when her friends got into a fight with other patrons. Herrera-Ramirez ushered her friends out of the bar and into her car, intending to leave. At the request of her friend, she drove past the other patrons who were standing outside the bar. Her passenger shot two of the bystanders. After the shooting, Herrera-Ramirez did not contact the police. The police found her, arrested her, and found the gun in her car. She was convicted of first-degree reckless injury and sentenced to 11 months in prison. An IJ and the BIA found that her offense was a “particularly serious crime” and that she was ineligible for withholding of removal (the only possible relief). The Seventh Circuit dismissed her petition for review from that determination for lack of jurisdiction; a court may not second-guess the Board’s decision that a crime is “particularly serious” under 8 U.S.C. 1252(a)(2)(B)(ii), unless the petitioner has raised a question of law. Herrera-Ramirez was disputing only the Board’s discretionary characterization of her offense. View "Herrera-Ramirez v. Sessions" on Justia Law

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Tsegmed, a citizen of Mongolia, overstayed a nonimmigrant visa and has lived in the U.S. since 2004. In 2008, after his second DUI arrest, the government placed him in removal proceedings. He sought asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). Tsemed had been a high-ranking officer in the Mongolian military and had knowledge of the internal workings of the governing Communist regime. He and his friend, Bayarbat, became involved with the pro-democracy movement and were arrested twice. Bayarbat’s family was killed; Tsegmed believes the government caused the deaths of his son and his brother and that agents were still looking for him. The IJ denied relief; the BIA affirmed. The Seventh Circuit denied a petition for review, stating that it lacked jurisdiction to review the denial of his asylum application because Tsegmed had missed the filing deadline and had not established material changes or extraordinary circumstances. The evidence did not compel the conclusion that he is eligible for withholding or CAT relief. Tsegmed had a subjectively genuine fear of persecution is not objectively reasonable. The Democratic Party controls the presidency and a plurality of the Mongolian parliament. The State Department reports that there are no official political prisoners or detainees in Mongolia View "Otgonbaatar Tsegmed v. Jefferson B. Sessions III" on Justia Law

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Lopez, a citizen of El Salvador, entered the U.S. without inspection around 1996. In 1997, he was convicted of felony possession of marijuana. In 2015, DHS charged Lopez as removable as an alien present in the U.S. without being admitted or paroled, 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(6)(A)(i); and as an alien convicted under a controlled substance law, 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(2)(A)(i)(II). Lopez sought asylum and withholding of removal, alleging extortion by Salvadoran gangs. The IJ denied Lopez’s application because Lopez had not filed his asylum application within one year of his last entry; his lack of knowledge about the process did not constitute changed or extraordinary circumstances. The IJ held that Lopez’s fear of persecution was “[n]either objectively reasonable [n]or on account of any of the statutorily enumerated grounds,” as there was no evidence that any future mistreatment would be on account of Lopez’s race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or social group membership. The BIA dismissed an appeal, rejecting an argument that the gang would target Lopez based on its perception of him as a wealthy business owner who failed to comply with its demands. The Seventh Circuit dismissed an appeal for lack of jurisdiction. Lopez failed to establish that his life or freedom would be threatened based on a protected ground. View "Lopez v. Sessions" on Justia Law