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A proceeding in the district court under 8 U.S.C. 1447(b) does not become moot when the USCIS purports to deny a naturalization application after the applicant has already initiated the court proceeding. In this case, after USCIS failed to reach a decision in plaintiff's citizenship application within 120 days, he filed suit under section 1447(b) to seek a decision in the matter. While the action was pending, USCIS denied the application. Looking to the text and context of the statute, the Eighth Circuit held that USCIS's purported denial of plaintiff's naturalization application after he initiated a district court proceeding under section 1447(b) did not render the case moot. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Haroun v. DHS" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the City in an action challenging the DOJ's use of certain factors in determining scores for applicants to a competitive grant program. The Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant program allocates a limited pool of funds to state and local applicants under the Public Safety Partnership and Community Policing Act, enacted as part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. In this case, the DOJ gives additional points to an applicant that chooses to focus on the illegal immigration area (instead of other focus areas) and gives additional points to an applicant who agrees to the Certification of Illegal Immigration Cooperation. After determining that the case was not moot and that the City had Article III standing, the panel held that the DOJ's use of these two factors in evaluating for the competitive grant program did not violate the Spending Clause of the U.S. Constitution, did not exceed the DOJ's statutory authority, and did not violate the Administrative Procedure Act. View "City of Los Angeles v. Barr" on Justia Law

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Tilija was active in the Nepali Congress Party (NCP), the political rival of the Maoists. While campaigning for the NCP, Maoists attacked him, throwing stones at his face, resulting in stitches. Maoists told Tilija’s father that they planned to kill Tilija. Discharged from the hospital, Tilija stayed at a hotel instead of going home, then moved four hours away. Maoists called him three times, stating that they would kill him when they found him. Tilija moved to Kathmandu. Maoists called and again threatened him. Tilija stopped using his cell phone. According to Tilija, the police did not investigate crimes committed by Maoists. Tilija left Nepal. In the U.S., charged removable (8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(7)(i)(I)), Tilija sought asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture. The IJ denied relief, finding that Tilija was credible, adequately corroborated his claim, and was targeted for his political opinion but that the harm did not rise to the level of persecution and that Tilija did not establish that the government was unable or unwilling to protect him. Before the BIA, Tilija presented new, previously unavailable, evidence that after his merits hearing his wife was assaulted and raped because of his political activities and NCP affiliation. Tilija’s wife submitted medical records and corroborating letters. The BIA upheld the denial of relief. The Third Circuit remanded, holding, as a matter of law, that the new evidence established a prima facie asylum claim. View "Tilija v. Attorney General United States" on Justia Law

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A lawful permanent resident of the U.S. and a citizen of Zimbabwe, Nkomo was convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1342; 1349, an “aggravated felony,” which made Nkomo removable and ineligible for most relief. About a month after she was sentenced to time served for that offense, the government initiated removal proceedings. The Board of Immigration Appeals found Nkomo ineligible for withholding because her wire fraud conviction was for a “particularly serious crime,” 8 U.S.C. 1231(b)(3)(B)(ii). Denying Convention Against Torture protection, the Board found that Nkomo had not shown a probability she would be tortured by or with the acquiescence of the government of Zimbabwe. The Third Circuit rejected her petition for review, first distinguishing the Supreme Court's 2018 "Pereira" decision and holding that the failure of the notice to appear to specify the time and place of Nkomo’s initial removal hearing did not deprive the immigration judge of jurisdiction over the removal proceedings. Nkomo appeared and participated in, her removal hearing. Nkomo’s argument would invalidate scores of removal orders and grants of relief without requiring the alien to allege she lacked sufficient notice of her hearing. The court rejected her claim for withholding of removal and noted that it lacked jurisdiction over the CAT claim. View "Nkomo v. Attorney General United States" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit granted Petitioner's petition for judicial review from the decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) affirming the decision of the immigration judge (IJ) denying Petitioner's applications for relief and ordering his removal and vacated the BIA's order, holding that the agency committed clear legal error both in overlooking critical evidence supporting Petitioner's claim for withholding of removal and in using such evidence as part of its rationale for denying that claim. Petitioner, a Dominican national, was charged as removable. Petitioner filed cross-applications for withholding of removal and protection under the United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT). The IJ denied Petitioner's applications, and the BIA affirmed. The First Circuit vacated the agency's final order in its entirety and remanded this matter for further proceedings, holding that the agency clearly erred in overlooking important evidence supporting Petitioner's claim for withholding of removal, and the flaws that permeated the agency's analysis of that claim potentially comprised the agency's analysis of Petitioner's CAT claim. View "Rodriguez-Villar v. Barr" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit held that it generally lacked jurisdiction to review a decision by the BIA not to exercise its sua sponte authority to reopen removal proceedings. In Bonilla v. Lynch, the panel held that it has jurisdiction to review denial of a motion to reopen sua sponte only for the limited purpose of reviewing the reasoning behind the decisions for legal or constitutional error. The panel denied a petition for review of the BIA's decision denying sua sponte reopening based on the vacatur of the criminal conviction underlying his removal order. The panel held that petitioner failed to establish legal or constitutional error in the BIA's reasoning such that the panel had jurisdiction to review that decision. View "Menendez-Gonzalez v. Barr" on Justia Law

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Vyloha, a Czech citizen, entered the U.S. in 1998 and overstayed his visa. In 2006, after he was convicted of DUI, DHS charged Vyloha with removability, 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(1)(B). The notice indicated that the hearing’s time and date were to be determined. Days later, a notice was mailed to Vyloha’s attorney setting the date. On October 13, 2006, Vyloha appeared before and presented a letter from his counsel, requesting rescheduling. Vyloha indicated that he preferred to proceed in English. The IJ personally served Vyloha with notice of his rescheduled hearing in May 2007 and orally warned him about the consequences of failing to appear. Vyloha did not appear at that hearing. The IJ ordered him removed in absentia. Shortly thereafter, police arrested Vyloha for driving with a suspended license. While serving a sentence for that offense, Vyloha learned that there was an ICE detainer on him. ICE did not take him into custody at the conclusion of his sentence, but, in 2017, apprehended Vyloha. He moved to reopen his proceedings and to rescind the in absentia order, claiming he had no notice of the 2007 hearing due to his limited English and exceptional circumstances due to his counsel’s ineffectiveness. The BIA upheld the denial of that motion. Vyloha unsuccessfully sought reconsideration based on the Supreme Court’s 2018 "Pereira" decision, arguing that because his initial Notice lacked the specific date, the immigration courts did not have subject-matter jurisdiction. The Seventh Circuit agreed. Vyloha could have argued that his Notice was statutorily deficient before the Pereira decision, so his challenge is untimely. Given his personally-served notice and appearance at a hearing, Vyloha cannot show prejudice that would excuse his forfeiture. View "Vyloha v. Barr" on Justia Law

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Lopez was charged with possessing a firearm as an alien “illegally or unlawfully in the United States,” 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(5)(A). The district court thought that section 922(g)(5)(A) as applied to Lopez was unconstitutionally vague in light of administrative guidance from the Department of Homeland Security, giving “prosecutorial discretion” as to certain (DACA) aliens who had entered this country without authorization as children. Lopez, along with his family, entered the U.S. without authorization when he was four years old and had obtained deferred action under DACA in 2017. Lopez was arrested for DUI and officers found a 9mm pistol and a 12-gauge shotgun in his vehicle. The Sixth Circuit reversed, rejecting his argument that once he was granted relief under DACA, Lopez was “lawfully present” in the United States. The Secretary’s grant of deferred action under DACA, therefore, did not, and could not, change Lopez’s status as an alien “illegally or unlawfully in the United States” for purposes of section 922(g)(5)(A). That relief represented only the Secretary’s decision temporarily not to prosecute him for that status. View "United States v. Lopez" on Justia Law

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Payano, a citizen of the Dominican Republic, came to the U.S. legally at age 12. In 1998, at age 18, he pleaded guilty to first-degree possession of a controlled substance. In 2001, after completing his sentence, he was removed. Payano illegally reentered the U.S. in 2012. During a 2017 Pennsylvania traffic stop, the trooper found a kilogram of cocaine hidden in Payano's vehicle. Payano was charged with illegal reentry and possession with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine. The district court agreed that the drugs were the fruit of an unconstitutional search. The government dismissed the drug charge. Payano pleaded guilty to illegal reentry. Because Payano’s 1998 conviction was for drug possession, not drug distribution, it was a felony under federal law, not an aggravated felony. Payano’s plea was under 8 U.S.C. 1326(b)(1), which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years. The PSR calculated the Guidelines range as 24-30 months’ imprisonment and correctly listed the statutory maximum, but cited 1326(b)(2) (illegal reentry following an aggravated felony with a 20-year maximum). The government sought an upward variance because Payano had been “convicted of an aggravated felony" and had the court “correct” the PSR to reflect that Payano had pleaded guilty to “aggravated reentry.” Payano’s counsel agreed. The court imposed a four-year sentence. The Third Circuit vacated, agreeing that there was error but declining to extend the “Molina-Martinez“ presumption of prejudice because a mistaken understanding about the applicable statutory range, without more, has far less bearing on the actual sentence than a Guidelines-calculation error. The error did affect Payano’s substantial rights and without correction would seriously affect the fairness, integrity, or public reputation of judicial proceedings. View "United States v. Payano" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit denied a petition for review of the BIA's decision affirming the IJ's denial of petitioner's application for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). The court held that the BIA did not abuse its discretion in denying petitioner's motion to reconsider because supporting authority was wholly absent from his motion — other than the regulatory standard of review for questions of law. The court also held that substantial evidence supported the BIA' finding that petitioner did not suffer past persecution by gang threats to his family where his entire family still lived in El Salvador and have experienced no problems with the gang. Substantial evidence also supported the BIA's finding that petitioner lacked a well-founded fear of future persecution where, combined with his family's continued safety, petitioner admitted that he never attempted to relocate within his home country. View "Cruz v. Barr" on Justia Law