Justia Immigration Law Opinion Summaries

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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

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Rafael, a citizen of Guatemala, applied for admission to the U.S. DHS served her with a Notice to Appear at a place and time “to be determined.” Months later, she received a Notice of Hearing, stating the time, date, and location for that hearing. Rafael appeared and applied for asylum and withholding of removal on the basis that, if returned to Guatemala, she would suffer violence because she is a woman. An IJ found Rafael credible, considered the evidence, including the 2018 State Department Report, then found that Rafael could not show that the Guatemalan government was unable or unwilling to protect women from persecution by private individuals. The IJ found that the Guatemalan government had taken measures to address the problem and that Rafael had not established a cognizable protected group, proven a nexus to a protected ground, or shown either that she had suffered past persecution or held an objectively reasonable fear of future persecution.Before the BIA, Rafael claimed that the removal proceedings were invalid for lack of jurisdiction because the initial Notice did not state the time and place. The BIA dismissed her appeal. The Sixth Circuit denied a petition for review. Rafael received the necessary notice and the IJ had jurisdiction; for purposes of her due process claim, she was not prejudiced by the omission of the place and time from the original notice. View "Rafael v. Garland" on Justia Law

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California AB 32 phases out private detention facilities within the state. Because of fluctuations in immigration, ICE relies exclusively on private detention centers in California. AB 32 carves out exceptions for the state’s private detention centers. The United States and GEO, which operates private immigration detention centers, sued. The district court ruled largely in favor of California.The Ninth Circuit reversed. California is not simply exercising its traditional police powers, but rather impeding federal immigration policy. . Under the Supremacy Clause, state law must fall if it stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress. The presumption against preemption does not apply to areas of exclusive federal regulation, such as the detention of immigrants. California did more than just exercise its traditional state police powers – it impeded the federal government’s immigration policy. Congress granted the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security broad discretion over immigrant detention, including the right to contract with private companies to operate detention facilities. AB 32 also discriminated against the federal government in violation of the intergovernmental immunity doctrine by requiring the federal government to close all its detention facilities, while not requiring California to close any of its private detention facilities until 2028. View "GEO Group, Inc., v. Newsom" on Justia Law

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In 1997, with the help of an interpreter, defendant Estaban Bravo pleaded guilty to, and was convicted on, a plea bargain agreement of: a felony violation of domestic violence (count 1); and felony violation of child cruelty (count 2). The trial court sentenced defendant to two years’ incarceration, suspended, and placed him on formal probation for 36 months on terms and conditions including 25 days’ custody, for which he was granted time served. In 2018, defendant moved to vacate the judgment pursuant to Penal Code sections 1016.5 and 1473.7. In 2019, the trial court denied the motion. In late 2020, following defendant’s appeal of the trial court’s decision, the Court of Appeal affirmed. In March 2021, the California Supreme Court granted review, and in May issued California v. Vivar, 11 Cal.5th 510 (2021), disapproving of the appellate court’s opinion in Bravo. The Supreme Court transferred the appeal in Bravo back to the Court of Appeal with directions to vacate the decision and reconsider the matter in light of Vivar. Defendant stated that the immediate advantage of his plea was that he would be released from custody that same day so that he could return to his construction job without being fired and could therefore support his spouse and their child. Defendant stated he was informed by counsel and the prosecution that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would conduct a sweep of the county jail where he was being held by the next morning; being released that afternoon allowed him to avoid the ICE sweep and likely deportation as a result of that encounter. Before the Court of Appeal, defendant contended that at the time he executed the plea agreement, he was unaware of future immigration consequences of his plea, and had he known, he would not have executed the agreement. After reconsideration, the Court of Appeal found that notwithstanding its sufficiency to meet the statutory language of section 1016.5, the advisement on defendant’s 1997 plea agreement was inadequate to advise him of the mandatory immigration consequences of his plea. "In such cases, '[d]efendants must be advised that they will be deported, excluded, and denied naturalization as a mandatory consequence of the conviction." However, "a defendant's self-serving statement - after trial, conviction and sentence... must be corroborated independently by objective evidence." Here, notably, defendant offered no statement or declaration by his trial counsel or any other contemporaneous evidence other than the statements in his declaration to support that claim. Accordingly, there was no supportable reason for defendant to believe the court would accept an immigration-neutral alternative charge. The Court held the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying defendant's section 1473.7 application; judgment was therefore affirmed. View "California v. Bravo" on Justia Law