Justia Immigration Law Opinion Summaries

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The First Circuit vacated the judgment of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) dismissing Appellant's appeal from a decision of an immigration judge (IJ) ordering him removed from the United States, holding that the BIA failed to address Appellant's request to apply equitable tolling in assessing whether her appeal was timely.Appellant, a native and citizen of Jamaica, applied for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the United Nations Convention Against Torture. The IJ denied Appellant's requests for relief and ordered her removed to Jamaica. In the midst of the newly-announced health emergency occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic, Appellant missed the deadline to appeal the IJ's removal order. The BIA summarily dismissed Appellant's appeal as untimely. The First Circuit vacated the BIA's order of dismissal, holding that the BIA erred by failing to consider Appellant's request for equitable tolling in deciding whether her appeal was timely. View "James v. Garland" on Justia Law

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Jenifer Miladis Alvarado-Diaz and Magdaly Suleydy Perez-Velasquez appealed the district court’s affirmance of their convictions for entering the United States in violation of 8 U.S.C. 1325(a)(1). Alvarado and Perez crossed the U.S.-Mexico border into New Mexico by walking around a fence, miles away from the nearest designated port of entry. Alvarado was stopped by a border patrol agent after she made it about 180 yards past the border, and a border patrol agent saw Perez just as she walked into the country. Each was detained. Alvarado and Perez admitted to the agents that they were nationals of El Salvador and Guatemala, respectively, and had no authorization to enter the country. They contended “enter” was a term of art that required more than a physical intrusion; it also required “freedom from official restraint” and “inspection or intentional evasion of inspection.” The district court affirmed the convictions because, even assuming freedom from official restraint was required for an “entry,” the Defendants were not under official restraint. The defendants argued they were under official restraint because they had been continuously surveilled, but the court noted that continuous surveillance alone did not equate to restraint. On appeal to the Tenth Circuit, defendants reiterated arguments made at the district court. The Tenth Circuit rejected these arguments and affirmed the district court's judgment. View "United States v. Perez-Velasquez" on Justia Law

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In the mid-2000s, Carlos Argenis Figueroa Alatorre was working as a car salesperson when he lost his job. Although he knew his brother-in-law, Luis, was involved in something unsavory, Alatorre began working for him, acting as a lookout and a driver for about two months before the United States Department of Justice closed in on Luis’s drug importation ring, arresting Alatorre along with several others at a border patrol checkpoint. In the wake of the arrest, Alatorre was forthcoming about his involvement. He had already been in jail for a year and a half, awaiting his trial, when he was offered a plea deal that would allow him to be released from custody with credit for time served. So in 2008, at the age of 24, he pleaded guilty to his first and only criminal charge: conspiracy to possess cocaine for sale. Alatorre did not know this conviction would render him immediately deportable. He had come to the United States from Mexico when he was just four years old, and lived here as a permanent resident. In 2011, three years after his plea, he attempted to become a naturalized citizen, which had the unintended consequence of alerting immigration authorities to his criminal conviction. Within a few months, he was deported to Mexico. Alatorre lived in Mexicali after that, taking any available work he could find. Although his children, who are both U.S. citizens, were usually able visit him on the weekends, he was separated from his wife and children, parents, four siblings, and dozens of nieces, nephews, and cousins—all of whom lived in the U.S. In early 2020, Alatorre moved to vacate his conviction, only to have the trial court deny it as untimely based on a finding that he did not exercise “reasonable diligence” to become aware of the existence of the statutory remedy after the law became effective. The question posed by this case was how a petitioner’s “reasonable diligence” should be evaluated when the ripening of an unexpected immigration consequence predates the creation of an avenue of relief. After considering the text, history, and purpose of Penal Code section 1473.7, the Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s ruling, finding that it applied an incorrect legal standard when it assumed Alatorre was obligated to learn about section 1473.7 starting in January 2017, when the section became effective. As to the merits of his request, the Court found he established prejudicial error within the meaning of section 1473.7, and remanded to the trial court with instructions to issue an order granting the motion. View "California v. Alatorre" on Justia Law

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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