Justia Immigration Law Opinion Summaries

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The case involves Jose Luis Amador-Bonilla, a citizen of Guatemala and Nicaragua, who was charged with violating 8 U.S.C. § 1326, Illegal Reentry After Removal from the United States. Amador-Bonilla had entered the United States without authorization multiple times and had been removed six times. He was arrested in Oklahoma and charged with illegal reentry, an offense for which he had already been convicted twice. He moved to dismiss the indictment, arguing that the illegal reentry provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act violates his right to equal protection under the Fifth Amendment.The United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma denied Amador-Bonilla's motion to dismiss the indictment. The court determined that rational basis review applied to Amador-Bonilla’s challenge and that the challenge failed because Amador-Bonilla failed to show there was no “rational relationship between the disparity of treatment and some legitimate governmental purpose.” The court also found that even if the Arlington Heights framework arguably applied, Amador-Bonilla “failed to demonstrate that [8 U.S.C. § 1326] was passed with a discriminatory purpose as a motivating factor.”The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court concluded that 8 U.S.C. § 1326 does not violate the Fifth Amendment. The court found that Amador-Bonilla failed to show that Congress enacted the provision in 1952 with a discriminatory purpose as a motivating factor. The court also noted that all parties agreed that the provision otherwise satisfies rational basis review. View "United States v. Amador-Bonilla" on Justia Law

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In the case of Antonio E. Gonzalez v. State of Maryland, the defendant, Antonio E. Gonzalez, was charged with assaulting his then-wife, M., and their son, F. During the trial, Gonzalez's counsel attempted to cross-examine M. about her application for a U visa, which is a visa for noncitizens who are victims of certain crimes and are helpful to law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity. The trial court ruled that it would not permit cross-examination of M. concerning her immigration status because Gonzalez's counsel had not established an adequate foundation for such inquiry.The Supreme Court of Maryland held that the trial court erred in precluding Gonzalez's counsel from cross-examining M. about her U visa application. The Supreme Court concluded that, given the nature of the requirement that, for a U visa to be approved, an applicant must be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity and provide a certification from a law enforcement or government official to that effect, a sufficient factual foundation for impeachment of a witness concerning a U visa application is established under Maryland Rule 5-616(a)(4) where there has been a showing that a U visa application, based on the witness being a victim of a crime that the defendant is charged with, has been submitted to the government for approval.However, the Supreme Court also concluded that, because any error in precluding cross-examination concerning U visa application was harmless, it was not necessary to deviate from general practice of refraining from addressing issue not decided by the trial court or raised in petition for writ of certiorari. The Supreme Court concluded that trial court’s error was harmless beyond reasonable doubt as defendant testified to committing acts that formed basis of offenses for which he was convicted, witness’s testimony was consistent with another witness’s testimony who was not applicant for U visa, witness’s testimony was consistent with initial description of incident, and other evidence corroborated that both witnesses had been assaulted by defendant. View "Gonzalez v. State" on Justia Law

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The petitioner, Nguyen Chi Cuong Nmn Huynh, a Vietnamese citizen and lawful permanent resident of the United States, was convicted in Iowa for knowingly purchasing or possessing a visual depiction of a minor engaging in a prohibited sexual act. Following this conviction, the Department of Homeland Security sought his removal under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), arguing that his crime constituted "sexual abuse of a minor," an aggravated felony that warrants removal. An immigration judge found Huynh removable, and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) dismissed his appeal.The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reviewed de novo whether Huynh's state crime qualifies as sexual abuse of a minor. The court applied the "categorical approach," examining whether the state statute defining the crime of conviction categorically fits within the generic federal definition of a corresponding aggravated felony. The court found that the Iowa statute is broader than the generic federal offense of sexual abuse of a minor.The court held that the conduct criminalized by the Iowa statute, namely, knowingly possessing a prohibited image, falls outside the generic federal offense of sexual abuse of a minor. The court reasoned that none of the definitions of "sexual abuse of a minor" in the INA, reliable dictionaries, or a closely related statute captures simple possession of child pornography. The court also found that the BIA's preferred definition, which requires something more than simple possession of child pornography, does not apply to Huynh's case.The court also considered the Department of Homeland Security's charge that Huynh committed a "crime involving moral turpitude" within five years of his admission to the United States. The court found that the government could not defend the BIA's decision on this charge and granted the government's request for voluntary remand for the BIA to reconsider its decision.In conclusion, the court granted Huynh's petition for review, vacated the BIA's order, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Huynh v. Garland" on Justia Law

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Ulises Romeo Lucas-Hernandez was arrested by Border Patrol Agent Brian Mauler in a remote area north of the U.S.-Mexico border. During the arrest, Agent Mauler asked Lucas-Hernandez three questions in Spanish about his citizenship and immigration status. Lucas-Hernandez was subsequently charged with misdemeanor attempted entry by an alien under 8 U.S.C. § 1325(a)(1). Before trial, Lucas-Hernandez moved to exclude Agent Mauler from testifying to his Spanish-to-English translation of the questions and answers, arguing that the statements were hearsay and that Agent Mauler was not qualified as an expert to translate the statements. The magistrate judge denied the motion regarding hearsay, reasoning that the statements made by a defendant are considered party admissions, not hearsay.The magistrate judge found Lucas-Hernandez guilty of violating 8 U.S.C. § 1325(a)(1) and he was sentenced to time served. Lucas-Hernandez challenged his conviction in district court, asserting that Agent Mauler’s testimony of his field statements was hearsay and fell outside the hearsay exclusion in Rule 801(d)(2) because Agent Mauler was not a “mere language conduit” under United States v. Nazemian. The district court affirmed the magistrate judge’s ruling and found that Nazemian did not apply, and so Agent Mauler’s testimony as to Lucas-Hernandez’s field statements was not hearsay.The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that the Nazemian analysis applies to the statements of a party opponent that are translated by the testifying witness. However, the court concluded that any error in admitting Agent Mauler’s testimony was harmless, considering the evidence presented from Lucas-Hernandez’s A-file, the database searches, and the circumstances when he was found by Agent Mauler. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court’s ruling upholding Lucas-Hernandez’s conviction under 8 U.S.C. § 1325(a)(1). View "United States v. Lucas-Hernandez" on Justia Law

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The case involves an Indonesian family, Edwin Kurniawan Tulung, Elizabeth Angelia Karauwan, and their son Enrico Geraldwin Tulung, who fled to the United States in 2004 due to fear of persecution for their Christian faith. They entered the US on tourist visas and applied for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). Their application was denied by an Immigration Judge in 2009, a decision affirmed by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) in 2011 on the grounds that past harm did not rise to the level of persecution and future persecution was not sufficiently likely. The family's petition for review was denied in 2012.The family filed their first motion to reopen based on changed country conditions in 2014, which was denied by the BIA. They did not appeal. In 2020, they filed their second motion to reopen, which was also denied by the BIA. Again, they did not seek judicial review. Instead, they filed three motions in 2022: a third motion to reopen, a motion to reconsider the denial of the second motion to reopen, and a motion to amend the second motion to reopen. The BIA denied all three motions.The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed the BIA's denial of the motions to reconsider and amend. However, it found that the BIA committed an error of law in reviewing the motion to reopen. The court held that the BIA incorrectly disregarded evidence by comparing it to conditions at the time of the previous motion to reopen, rather than at the time of the original merits hearing. The court vacated the BIA's denial of the motion to reopen and remanded for further proceedings. View "Tulung v. Garland" on Justia Law

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The case involves Marken Leger, a Haitian citizen who has lived in the United States as an asylee since 2000. In 2009, Leger pleaded no contest to a charge of lewd and lascivious battery, in violation of Florida Statute § 800.04(4). In 2013 and 2018, Leger pleaded no contest to two other offenses, both for the possession of marijuana, in violation of Florida Statute § 893.13(6)(b). The government initiated removal proceedings against him in 2019, alleging that his convictions made him removable under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).The immigration judge concluded that Leger was removable, finding that his marijuana possession convictions constituted controlled substance offenses under the INA and that his conviction under Florida Statute § 800.04(4) was an aggravated felony. Leger appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), which affirmed the immigration judge’s decision.In the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, the court held that Leger's marijuana possession convictions did not constitute controlled substance offenses as defined under federal law, and thus, the BIA erred in determining that Leger was subject to removal on these grounds. The court also held that Leger's conviction under Florida Statute § 800.04(4) did not constitute the sexual abuse of a minor and was not an aggravated felony under the INA. The court vacated the BIA's decision and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Marken Leger v. U.S. Attorney General" on Justia Law

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The defendant, Luis Antonio Flores Atilano, was found guilty of being an alien in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(5)(A) and 924(a)(8), and was sentenced to 36 months’ imprisonment. The case arose when law enforcement officers were dispatched to a motel room in South Dakota, where they found Atilano. Upon searching him and his belongings, they discovered three firearms and ammunition. Atilano, who was born in Mexico and entered the U.S. in 2008, claimed that he believed he was lawfully in the U.S. due to paperwork completed by his wife, and that he had the firearms for self-protection due to threats from gang members.The district court held a one-day bench trial, during which the government presented evidence including law enforcement witnesses, Atilano’s recorded interview with law enforcement, and various other exhibits. The court found Atilano guilty of being an alien in possession of three firearms and eight rounds of ammunition. Atilano was subsequently sentenced to a within-Guidelines sentence of 36 months’ imprisonment.On appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, Atilano argued that the evidence was insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he knew he was an alien unlawfully present in the U.S. and that he was acting under duress at the time of the offense. The court, however, affirmed the district court's decision. It found that there was sufficient evidence for a reasonable factfinder to conclude Atilano knew he was in the U.S. unlawfully. The court also rejected Atilano's duress defense, stating that his evidence consisted of a generalized and speculative fear of violence and he failed to show that he had no reasonable legal alternative to committing the crime. View "United States v. Atilano" on Justia Law

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The case involves a Bosnian family, Elvir Durakovic, his wife Sanela, and their daughter, who sought asylum in the United States. The family claimed they were persecuted in Bosnia and Herzegovina due to their Muslim faith and Durakovic's past work as a police informant. They alleged that the Board of Immigration Appeals violated their due process rights by denying them an extension of time to file their brief and lacked substantial evidence in determining their ineligibility for asylum, withholding of removal, and relief under the Convention Against Torture (CAT).The immigration judge initially denied all relief, finding that while the family's testimony was credible and they had suffered harm, there was no connection between the harm suffered and their protected group. The judge concluded that Durakovic was targeted for his cooperation with the police, not because of his Muslim faith. The Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed the immigration judge's decision, dismissing the family's appeal.The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reviewed the Board's decision and denied the family's petition. The court found no violation of due process rights as the family was able to submit their appellate brief on time. The court also found substantial evidence supporting the Board's decision that the family was not persecuted for their Muslim faith but rather Durakovic's past informant activities. The court further held that the family failed to show it was more likely than not they would be singled out for torture if they returned to Bosnia and Herzegovina, thus not qualifying for CAT relief. View "Durakovic v. Garland" on Justia Law

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Buzzy Martinez was arrested and charged with transporting undocumented aliens hidden in his tractor-trailer after a U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) canine alerted to the vehicle. Martinez argued that the canine’s alerts could not provide the handler with the necessary reasonable suspicion to extend the stop of his vehicle and probable cause to search it because dogs are unable to reliably differentiate between the scents of a vehicle’s driver and concealed humans within the vehicle. The district court denied Martinez’s motion to suppress the evidence gathered from his vehicle, and he pleaded guilty while preserving his right to appeal the suppression ruling.The district court found that the USBP canine and its handler were adequately trained and certified to detect concealed humans, and that dogs are capable of detecting concealed humans. The court concluded that the canine’s alerts and indications were reliable, providing reasonable suspicion to extend the stop for a second sniff, and probable cause to search Martinez’s tractor-trailer after Martinez was removed from the vehicle. Martinez was sentenced to eighteen months in prison, followed by a term of supervised release of three years, and he appealed the ruling.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court held that the district court's finding that the canine was reliable in detecting concealed humans was not clearly erroneous. The court also noted that the canine was trained and certified to detect both concealed humans and controlled substances, and Martinez did not contest the canine's ability to detect controlled substances. Therefore, the canine's alert provided the handler with reasonable suspicion to investigate for and probable cause to search for controlled substances. The court concluded that the canine's alerts and indications at the primary inspection point provided reasonable suspicion to extend the stop and investigate for concealed humans, and at the secondary inspection point, after Martinez exited the vehicle and stated no one else was inside, the canine's continued alerts to the cab area of Martinez’s tractor-trailer provided probable cause to search the cab for concealed humans. View "United States v. Martinez" on Justia Law

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The case involves Hartono Djokro and his son William Djokro, citizens of Indonesia who entered the United States as nonimmigrant visitors and overstayed their visas. In 2007, Hartono Djokro filed an application for asylum, withholding of removal, and relief under the Convention Against Torture (CAT), including his son as a derivative applicant. They were served with notices to appear by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2008, charging them with removability for having remained in the United States longer than they had been authorized.In 2009, an immigration judge (IJ) denied their applications for asylum, withholding of removal, and relief under the CAT. The IJ found that the petitioners were ineligible for relief on several grounds, including that they had failed to establish a pattern or practice of persecution against either Chinese or Christians in Indonesia. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) upheld the IJ's decision in 2012. The petitioners' first motion to reopen was denied by the BIA in 2013.In the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, the petitioners sought review of the BIA's denial of their second untimely motion to reopen, filed in 2021. The court denied the petition, finding that the BIA reasonably concluded that the petitioners had failed to satisfy the requirements for an exception to late filing. The court held that the BIA did not abuse its discretion in finding that the petitioners failed to establish changed conditions or circumstances material to their eligibility for asylum or withholding of removal. The court found that the record amply supported the BIA's determination that the petitioners had not met their burden of showing that the exception for changed country conditions applies. View "Djokro v. Garland" on Justia Law