Justia Immigration Law Opinion Summaries

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In 2016, Gonzalez was granted deferred action on his removal from the U.S. under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). After his conviction for a misdemeanor in North Carolina, the DHS terminated Gonzalez’s grant of deferred action; he was immediately placed in removal proceedings. During the course of his proceedings before the IJ, DHS restored Gonzalez’s DACA grant of deferred action. Gonzalez asked the IJ to either administratively close his case, terminate the removal proceedings, or grant a continuance based on his mother’s pending application to be a legal permanent resident (LPR). The IJ denied all requests for relief. While the matter was pending in the BIA, Gonzalez’s mother obtained LPR status, and Gonzalez sought remand. The BIA affirmed the IJ’s decision and denied the motion to remand, reasoning that neither the IJs nor the BIA had the authority to terminate removal proceedings and that administrative closure and a continuance were inappropriate based on the speculative possibility of Gonzalez’s mother earning LPR status.The Fourth Circuit vacated. IJs and the BIA possess the inherent authority to terminate removal proceedings. The BIA improperly denied the request for administrative closure because it failed to address Gonzalez’s specific argument based on his DACA status. View "Gonzalez v. Garland" on Justia Law

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In April 2020, the district court entered a preliminary injunction and provisionally certified nationwide subclasses of ICE detainees with risk factors or disabilities placing them at heightened risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19. The court found that plaintiffs were likely to succeed on claims of deliberate indifference to the medical needs of detainees, punitive conditions of confinement, and violation of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 794. The preliminary injunction imposed a broad range of obligations on the federal government.The Ninth Circuit reversed, stating that neither the facts nor the law supported a judicial intervention of this magnitude. The plaintiffs did not make a clear showing that ICE acted with deliberate indifference to medical needs or in reckless disregard of health risks. If a particular condition or restriction of pretrial detention is reasonably related to a legitimate governmental objective, it does not, alone, amount to punishment; there was a legitimate governmental objective here, ICE was holding detainees because they were suspected of having violated the immigration laws or were otherwise removable. ICE’s national directives did not create excessive conditions of “punishment.” Rejecting the Rehabilitation Act claim, the court stated that the plaintiffs at most demonstrated that they were subjected to inadequate national policies; they did not show they were treated differently from other detainees “solely by reason” of their disabilities. View "Fraihat v. United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit vacated the order of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) that affirmed the denial of Appellant's application for withholding of removal and protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT), holding that the BIA's affirmance of the immigration judge's (IJ) finding of adverse credibility did not hold up.After a hearing, the IJ issued an oral decision denying Appellant's claims, finding that Appellant was not a credible witness in terms of crucial aspects of his claim and his lack of credibility was ultimately fatal to his argument that he had suffered past persecution. The BIA affirmed. The First Circuit vacated the BIA's order, holding that the BIA's affirmance of the IJ's adverse credibility finding could not be sustained, and therefore, the BIA's rulings could also not be sustained. View "Lopez Troche v. Garland" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit denied petitions for review of the BIA's decisions affirming the IJ's order of removal and denial of Petitioner Graham's motion to reopen. The court concluded that petitioners' narcotics convictions under Connecticut General Statute 21a-277(a) are controlled substance or aggravated felony drug trafficking offenses under the Immigration and Nationality Act. The court also concluded that its jurisdictional holding in Banegas Gomez v. Barr, 922 F.3d 101 (2d Cir. 2019), that a notice to appear that omits the hearing date and time is nonetheless sufficient to vest jurisdiction in the immigration courts, survives the Supreme Court's ruling in Niz-Chavez v. Garland, 141 S. Ct. 1474 (2021). View "Chery v. Garland" on Justia Law

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Americans and co-conspirators based in China schemed to obtain EB-1C work visas fraudulently for Chinese nationals. Their clients each deposited about $300,000 into a client-owned American bank account. The government did not prosecute the Chinese clients but sought forfeiture of the funds. The Chinese nationals filed claims for the funds.The State Department denied visa requests to allow certain Chinese nationals to attend the forfeiture trial. The U.S. Attorney unsuccessfully worked with their attorney and DHS to obtain parole letters granting them entry without a visa. The Chinese argued that their inability to attend violated the Due Process Clause by preventing them from presenting an “innocent owner” defense, 18 U.S.C. 983(d)(1). The district court denied the motion, noting other means to present their testimony, such as by video conference, and that counsel could present their defenses. All the Chinese were represented by counsel at trial; four attended and testified. The court instructed the jury that the government bore the burden of proving that the “funds made the . . . visa fraud scheme easy or less difficult or ensured that the scheme would be more or less free from obstruction or hindrance.”The jury found that the government had satisfied its burden of proof as to all the funds, that five Chinese nationals—four of whom had testified—had proved that they were innocent owners, and rejected the remaining innocent-owner defenses. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed, finding no due process violation. View "United States v. Approximately $281,110.00 Seized from an East-West Bank Account, ending in the number 2471" on Justia Law

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In 1997, Liang learned that his girlfriend was pregnant. Because they had not yet married, Chinese government officials forced her to abort their baby. To protest, Liang met with a local official. A scuffle ensued. It ended when a security guard slammed a door on his hand, scarring it. Liang then began attending underground church meetings. In 2000, Chinese police burst into a church meeting and declared it an illegal religious gathering. They arrested several people, including Liang. At the station, the police abused and beat Liang; he still suffers hearing loss. They locked him in a cold cell, gave him little to eat, and kept him for 15 days. Liang kept going to church. To avoid the police, the group met less often and constantly changed locations.Almost a decade later, Liang fled to the U.S. and sought asylum, claiming political persecution and religious persecution. Though the IJ found Liang credible, he found that he had not been persecuted, despite the government’s apparent concession. The BIA affirmed, categorizing the incidents as not “sufficiently egregious” and the threat of rearrest as not “concrete and menacing.” The Third Circuit granted a petition for review. The BIA was right about political persecution, but its reasons for rejecting religious persecution were flawed. By not considering religious persecution cumulatively, it misapprehended applicable law. View "Liang v. Attorney General United States" on Justia Law

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Nyandwi, a citizen of Burundi and a native of Tanzania, came to the U.S. as a refugee in 2006 and became a lawful permanent resident. After Nyandwi was convicted of robbery in the second degree, receiving a stolen firearm, and illegal possession of a controlled substance, DHS began removal proceedings under 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii), (B)(i). Nyandwi sought Asylum and Withholding of Removal under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). Nyandwi submitted evidence of country conditions in Burundi and testified that he was an ethnic Twa whose parents fled Burundi in 1996 because of a civil war that resulted in the death of Twas, including his family members. Nyandwi was unable to speak the native language, had no proof of political allegiance to the governing regime, and was unable to pay compulsory election contributions.The IJ and BIA denied relief. The Seventh Circuit denied a petition for review. The IJ considered the relevant factors such as evidence of past torture, ability to relocate within the country, evidence of grave human rights violations or other relevant country conditions, reflecting a careful analysis of the component parts of a holistic claim, and did not fail to consider critical evidence. View "Nyandwi v. Garland" on Justia Law

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Murry, a Jamaican citizen, entered in 2005 the U.S. as the fiancé of a U.S. citizen, whom he later married. Murry applied for permanent residence based on the marriage. USCIS denied the application in 2011. The government started removal proceedings. Murry has remained in the U.S. without authorization. Murry sought relief based on his sexual orientation. He testified that he has been attracted to men since he was a teenager and that in 2004 after a man publicly called him gay and urged bystanders to shun him, five men hit and kicked Murry. Fearing repercussions, he did not seek medical care or ask the police for help.The IJ considered evidence about how the treatment of gay people in Jamaica has evolved since 2004. The IJ denied Murry relief; Murry was ineligible for withholding of removal because the private attack in 2004 did not demonstrate state-sanctioned past persecution, and other evidence of the country’s conditions did not show a clear probability of future persecution. The BIA dismissed Murry’s appeal. The Seventh Circuit denied a petition for review. Jamaica rarely enforces its anti-sodomy laws for consensual sexual relations, and recent reports show growing public support for gay rights. Substantial evidence indicates that Murry does not face a likelihood of state-sanctioned persecution. View "Murry v. Garland" on Justia Law

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In 2011, Campos-Rivera, a citizen of Mexico, was convicted of Illinois state felonies He was removed but reentered and was apprehended in 2018. Charged with unlawfully reentering the U.S. after removal, 8 U.S.C. 1326(a), he was initially represented by an assistant public defender. Counsel was allowed to withdraw at Campos-Rivera’s request based on an irreconcilable conflict. A new lawyer was appointed. Campos-Rivera then filed multiple pro se motions raising issues that his new attorney declined to pursue. The judge told him that he could not proceed pro se and through counsel. Campos-Rivera asked the judge to dismiss his attorney and appoint a third. The judge declined, giving Campos-Rivera a choice: move forward with his current lawyer or proceed pro se. Campos-Rivera chose the latter. The judge then denied the pro se motions and later found Campos-Rivera guilty.The Seventh Circuit affirmed. A disagreement between attorney and client over pretrial motions is not grounds for the appointment of a new attorney. Campos-Rivera validly waived his right to counsel; the judge conducted a comprehensive waiver colloquy to ensure that the decision was fully informed and voluntary. Campos-Rivera’s challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence fails because section 1326(a) is a general-intent crime. The government need only prove that the defendant knowingly reentered the U.S., not that he intended to do so unlawfully. The stipulated facts support an inference of knowing reentry. No specific factual finding regarding the intent element was necessary. View "United States v. Campos-Rivera" on Justia Law

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Amaya shot his drug dealer five times and was convicted in Washington of first-degree assault. He was charged as removable for having been convicted of an “aggravated felony,” 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii). Amaya argued that his conviction was not categorically an “aggravated felony.” In the alternative, he sought asylum, withholding of removal, or relief under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). The Board of Immigration Appeals held that Amaya was removable.The Ninth Circuit denied a petition for review. First-degree assault under Washington law is categorically a crime of violence under 18 U.S.C. 16. The statute requires “intent to inflict great bodily harm,” which Washington courts have said is specific intent. The court concluded that it lacked jurisdiction to reach Amaya’s due process claim of immigration judge bias because Amaya failed to exhaust it before the BIA; neither his notice of appeal nor his attachment made a clear, non-conclusory argument in support of his claim. The agency did not err in denying Amaya’s application for deferral of removal under CAT; the IJ laid out the correct legal standard, considered Amaya’s concern that he would be harmed by the Salvadoran government, and found that Amaya was never harmed in the past by the Salvadoran government. The IJ considered the totality of the record evidence, including the country conditions reports. View "Amaya v. Garland" on Justia Law