Justia Immigration Law Opinion Summaries

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Sara Esteban-Garcia, a native and citizen of Guatemala and an indigenous woman of Mam descent, petitioned for review of a decision by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) which affirmed an immigration judge's order denying her application for asylum and claim for withholding of removal under sections 208 and 241(b)(3)(A) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Esteban-Garcia had fled Guatemala after a man she had been romantically involved with, along with his friends, demanded she become a prostitute or sell drugs to earn money for them. The immigration judge and the BIA found that Esteban-Garcia had failed to establish a nexus between the harm she experienced and a statutorily protected ground. On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit held that the record did not compel a contrary conclusion. It noted that the petitioner consistently stated the reason why her alleged persecutors wanted her to become a prostitute and drug seller was so that they could benefit financially, which is not a protected ground. Therefore, the court denied the petition for review. View "Esteban-Garcia v. Garland" on Justia Law

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In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit was asked to review a decision by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) concerning F.J.A.P., a petitioner from El Salvador. F.J.A.P. had previously been removed from the U.S. but returned due to threats from the MS-13 gang. After his return to the U.S., his original removal order was reinstated. F.J.A.P. then applied for withholding-only relief under the Convention Against Torture (CAT), which an immigration judge granted. However, the BIA reversed this decision. F.J.A.P. petitioned the Seventh Circuit for review.The court first addressed whether it had jurisdiction to review F.J.A.P.'s claim. The court concluded that a reinstated order of removal was not final for purposes of judicial review under 8 U.S.C. § 1252 until the agency had completed withholding proceedings. Therefore, F.J.A.P.'s petition was timely because it was filed within 30 days of the completion of his CAT proceedings.On the merits of the case, the court found that the BIA had not applied the correct standard of review to the immigration judge's decision. The BIA was required to review the immigration judge's factual findings for clear error, not de novo. However, the BIA had failed to address the immigration judge's key factual findings, had given more weight to certain facts in the record than others, and had not explained how the immigration judge's alleged errors displayed a lack of logic, plausibility, or support in the record. As a result, the court granted F.J.A.P.'s petition and remanded the case to the BIA for reconsideration of the immigration judge's decision under the correct standard of review. View "F. J. A. P. v. Garland" on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reviewed a petition by Israel Amador-Morales, a Mexican citizen, challenging the decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) to deny his motion to reopen his case. Morales had entered the United States without inspection in 2003, was voluntarily departed in 2012, and then re-entered without inspection in 2013. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) sought his removal and issued a Notice to Appear alleging his removability under 8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(6)(A)(i). Morales admitted the allegations and conceded removability in 2016. However, in 2019, he withdrew his admission and concession, and moved to terminate the proceedings. The Immigration Judge denied the motion, ordered his removal, and the BIA dismissed his appeal and denied the motion to reopen.Morales argued that the BIA should have granted his motion to reopen, erred in ruling his objection to the Notice to Appear as untimely, and misconstrued his motion as asking it to compel DHS to exercise prosecutorial discretion. The court, however, found that Morales's objections to the Notice to Appear were untimely as they occurred after the closing of pleadings. The court also determined that the BIA's decision that it lacked the authority to compel the DHS to exercise prosecutorial discretion did not constitute an abuse of discretion.The court denied the petition for review, upholding the BIA's decision to deny the motion to reopen and maintaining Morales's removal order. View "Amador-Morales v. Garland" on Justia Law

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In this case, Jamie Avila Reyes, the appellant, appealed his 15-year prison sentence for crimes including homicide by vehicle in the first degree and driving under the influence of alcohol. Reyes, an undocumented immigrant, contended that the trial court improperly considered his immigration status during sentencing, violating his due process and equal protection rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. Reyes also argued that OCGA § 17-10-1.3, a Georgia statute that allows a trial court to consider potential deportation when determining whether to probate a convicted person's sentence, is unconstitutional both on its face and as applied to him.The Supreme Court of Georgia held that OCGA § 17-10-1.3 is constitutional. The court found that the statute survived rational basis review because it bears a rational relationship to the legitimate governmental interest in ensuring the complete execution of judicial sentences. The court also held that the trial court did not violate Reyes' due process or equal protection rights when it applied the statute and declined to probate any portion of his sentence due to his impending deportation. The court noted that there was no evidence the trial court based its sentence on discriminatory animus towards undocumented noncitizens. Therefore, the court affirmed the judgment of the trial court. View "REYES v. THE STATE" on Justia Law

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Mario Alejos-Perez, a Mexican citizen and lawful permanent resident of the United States, sought a review of a Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) final order of removal that found him removable under 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(2)(B)(i) based on his Texas conviction for possessing a synthetic cannabinoid. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit denied his petition for review. The court agreed with the BIA's conclusion that Alejos-Perez failed to prove there was a "realistic probability" that Texas would use the state statute he was convicted under to prosecute the possession of drugs that are not criminalized under federal law, which would mean his conviction would not be a removable offense. Alejos-Perez argued that the "realistic probability" standard should not apply, but the court rejected his argument, citing the rule of orderliness and the law of the case doctrine. The court also found that Alejos-Perez failed to exhaust his administrative remedies regarding several authorities he cited for the first time during his appeal. View "Alejos-Perez v. Garland" on Justia Law

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Israeil Guzman-Maldonado, a lawful permanent resident of the United States and a citizen of Mexico, was convicted of three counts of armed robbery under Arizona Revised Statutes (“A.R.S.”) § 13-1904(A) in 2019. He was sentenced to concurrent eight-year terms for the first two counts and two years of probation for the third. In 2022, an immigration judge ordered Guzman's removal because he had been convicted of an aggravated felony theft offense and two crimes involving moral turpitude not arising from a single scheme. Guzman appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals, which dismissed his appeal, prompting him to petition for review with the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.The Ninth Circuit denied Guzman's petition for review, concluding that a conviction for armed robbery under A.R.S. § 13-1904(A), for which the term of imprisonment imposed is at least one year, is categorically an aggravated felony theft offense under 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii), thereby giving rise to removability. Applying the categorical approach, the court compared the elements of the generic federal crime and of Arizona armed robbery and concluded that Guzman’s conviction under A.R.S. § 13-1904(A) necessarily required proof of each element of generic theft. The court rejected Guzman's arguments that the Arizona statute encompasses "consensual" takings or the theft of services, both of which would have made it broader than generic theft. View "GUZMAN-MALDONADO V. GARLAND" on Justia Law

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The case involves Robert Mestanek, a citizen of the Czech Republic, who filed two Form I-130 petitions to establish his eligibility for lawful permanent residence in the United States based on his marriages to two different U.S. citizens. The first petition was filed by his then-wife Angel Simmons, and the second by his current wife Mary Mestanek. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) denied both petitions, the first on the grounds that Robert’s marriage to Angel was fraudulent, and the second based on the “marriage fraud bar” which prohibits approval of Form I-130 petitions for any noncitizen who has previously been found to have entered into a fraudulent marriage to circumvent immigration laws. The Mestaneks filed suit in federal district court seeking judicial review of USCIS’s denial of Mary’s Form I-130 petition. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of USCIS, and the Mestaneks appealed. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the lower court's decision, agreeing that USCIS’s denial was neither arbitrary nor contrary to law. The court rejected all of the Mestaneks’ arguments, including their contention that USCIS applied the wrong legal standard for marriage fraud, and their assertion that the administrative record was incomplete and insufficient for judicial review. The court also found no due process violation by USCIS. View "Mestanek v. Jaddou" on Justia Law

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Yahye Herrow, a member of the minority Bandabow Tribe in Somalia, sought review of the Board of Immigration Appeals' (BIA) denial of his claims for withholding of removal and relief under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). Herrow, who had been granted asylum in 2000, was ordered to be removed following his 2018 conviction for Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud and Wire Fraud. The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit upheld the BIA's determination that "Repatriated Minority Somalis" did not constitute a cognizable social group for the purpose of withholding of removal. However, the court found that the BIA had failed to consider evidence favorable to Herrow's CAT claim, which contended that he was likely to face torture upon return to Somalia and that the Somali government would acquiesce to such torture. The court granted Herrow's petition in part and remanded the case to the BIA for a more comprehensive review of the evidence related to his CAT claim. View "Herrow v. Attorney General United States of America" on Justia Law

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In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit addressed an appeal by Evaristo Contreras Silva, a Mexican citizen who was convicted of possession of a firearm by an illegal alien under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(5). Silva entered the United States unlawfully and was detained by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2018. He was informed of his illegal status and given an I-94 form. Silva argued that he believed he was lawfully in the U.S. based on the I-94 form and his interactions with immigration officials. In February 2022, Silva was found in possession of a firearm after a domestic violence call from his wife. He was subsequently charged and convicted for firearm possession as an illegal alien.On appeal, Silva argued that the Government did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he knew he was unlawfully in the U.S. when he possessed the firearm. He based his belief on the I-94 form, advice from his immigration attorneys, adherence to his bond conditions, and various applications to change his status after his arrest.However, the court affirmed the conviction, holding that the Government provided sufficient evidence that Silva knew he was in the U.S. unlawfully when he possessed a firearm according to the standard set in Rehaif v. United States. The court considered Silva's unlawful entry, his detention by DHS, his admission of unlawful entry in an application for status adjustment, and the pending status of his immigration applications at the time he possessed the firearm. The court concluded that although there was evidence supporting Silva's belief of lawful presence, it did not justify a judgment of acquittal as the evidence was not definitive and the issue was appropriately presented to the jury. View "United States v. Silva" on Justia Law

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The case involves Indian citizens Sanket and Nehaben Patel who sued the Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Ur Jaddou, under the Administrative Procedure Act for unreasonable delay in processing their applications for U visas. After their visas were granted, the Director moved to dismiss the case for mootness and attached an exhibit showing the applications' approval. The Director then realized she had not filed the exhibit under seal, violating the rule prohibiting the disclosure of information relating to noncitizens who are U visa applicants and recipients. The Patels sought civil penalties for the disclosure of their personal information. The district court dismissed the case and denied the Patels' motion for civil penalties, stating that any disclosure was not willful.The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court held that the Director's disclosure of the Patels' visa application status was not "willful" under 8 U.S.C. § 1367(c). The court reasoned that the term "willful" refers to actions that are intentional or knowing, as opposed to accidental. The court noted that the Director realized her mistake in not filing the exhibit under seal, promptly contacted the court to seal the exhibit, and the information disclosed was already revealed in the Patels’ unsealed complaint. Therefore, the disclosure was not considered willful but at most amounted to negligence. View "Patel v. Jaddou" on Justia Law