Justia Immigration Law Opinion Summaries

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The case involves Carlos Inestroza-Tosta, a native and citizen of Honduras, who illegally entered the United States multiple times and was removed on each occasion. After his third illegal entry, he was apprehended following an arrest for aggravated assault. His prior order of removal was reinstated, but he claimed a fear of returning to Honduras and sought withholding of removal and relief under the Convention Against Torture. His requests were denied by the Immigration Judge (IJ) and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), leading to his appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.The BIA dismissed Inestroza-Tosta's appeal, affirming the IJ's denial of his motion for administrative closure and his applications for statutory withholding of removal and relief under the Convention Against Torture. The BIA held that Inestroza-Tosta had not established that any harm he experienced or feared was connected to a protected ground, and his proposed particular social group, "gang violence recipients," was not recognized by law.The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held that the 30-day deadline for a would-be immigrant to seek judicial review of a "final order of removal" is nonjurisdictional. The court also held that an order of removal is not final until a decision has been made on the alien’s request for withholding of removal. Applying these conclusions to this case, the court ruled that Inestroza-Tosta timely sought review of the BIA’s denial of his requests for statutory withholding of removal and relief under the Convention Against Torture. However, his petition failed on the merits. Although he suffered persecution in the past, he could not demonstrate a clear probability of future harm based on a protected status or trait. Therefore, while his petition for review was timely, it was denied. View "Inestroza-Tosta v. Attorney General United States of America" on Justia Law

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The case involves Sandra Muñoz, an American citizen, and her husband Luis Asencio-Cordero, a citizen of El Salvador. The couple sought to obtain an immigrant visa for Asencio-Cordero to live in the United States. After several interviews, a consular officer denied Asencio-Cordero's application, citing a provision that renders inadmissible a noncitizen whom the officer believes seeks to engage in unlawful activity. Asencio-Cordero and Muñoz sued the Department of State, claiming that it had abridged Muñoz’s constitutional liberty interest in her husband’s visa application by failing to give a sufficient reason why Asencio-Cordero is inadmissible under the “unlawful activity” bar.The District Court granted summary judgment to the State Department, but the Ninth Circuit vacated the judgment, holding that Muñoz had a constitutionally protected liberty interest in her husband’s visa application and that the State Department was required to give Muñoz a reason for denying her husband’s visa. The court further held that by declining to give Muñoz more information earlier in the process, the State Department had forfeited its entitlement to insulate its decision from judicial review under the doctrine of consular nonreviewability.The Supreme Court of the United States reversed the Ninth Circuit's decision, holding that a citizen does not have a fundamental liberty interest in her noncitizen spouse being admitted to the country. The Court noted that while Congress has extended special treatment to marriage in immigration matters, it has never made spousal immigration a matter of right. The Court also noted that the assertion of a procedural due process right in someone else's legal proceeding would have unsettling collateral consequences. The case was remanded for further proceedings consistent with the Court's opinion. View "Department of State v. Munoz" on Justia Law

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The case involves Martha Isabel Rosales-Mendez, a Honduran native who illegally entered the United States. After being apprehended by border patrol agents, she was served with a notice to appear for a removal hearing. The agents recorded an address provided by her boyfriend over the phone, which turned out to be incorrect. Consequently, Rosales-Mendez did not receive the second notice setting the date and time of her removal hearing, leading to her being ordered removed in absentia when she failed to appear.Rosales-Mendez's case was initially reviewed by an immigration judge who ordered her removal in absentia after she failed to attend the hearing. She later discovered the removal order and moved to reopen the removal proceeding, arguing lack of notice. However, the immigration judge denied the motion. The Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed the decision, stating that since Rosales-Mendez failed to provide a correct address, the officials were excused from providing her notice of her removal hearing.The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit denied Rosales-Mendez's petition for review. The court held that immigration officials were not required to give notice of a removal hearing to an alien who provided them an inaccurate home address. The court reasoned that Rosales-Mendez, through her boyfriend, provided an incorrect address and failed to correct it, thereby forfeiting her right to actual notice of her removal hearing. The court concluded that Rosales-Mendez was properly ordered removed in absentia. View "Rosales-Mendez v. U.S. Attorney General" on Justia Law

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This case involves a dispute over jurisdiction in a divorce proceeding between Maria Del Carmen Rendon Quijada and Julian Javier Pimienta Dominguez. The couple, originally from Mexico, moved to the U.S. in 2007. Pimienta held a TN visa, allowing him to work temporarily in the U.S., while Rendon held a TD visa, reserved for spouses and minor children of TN visa holders. Rendon's TD visa expired in March 2020, and she began seeking lawful permanent resident status in December 2020. In May 2022, Rendon filed for divorce in Arizona. Pimienta argued that Rendon could not establish domicile in Arizona due to her expired TD visa, which precludes her from intending to remain in the state indefinitely. The trial court agreed and dismissed the case.The court of appeals reversed the decision, holding that Rendon's TD visa did not prevent her from establishing a U.S. domicile, as she had begun seeking lawful permanent resident status. The court concluded that federal immigration law did not preempt Arizona jurisdiction over the dissolution proceeding.The Supreme Court of Arizona disagreed with the lower courts' focus on federal immigration law. It held that the question was not whether federal immigration law divested Arizona courts of jurisdiction over a divorce sought by an expired TD visa holder, but whether the visa holder could meet the domicile requirements under Arizona law. The court concluded that federal immigration law did not prevent Rendon from establishing domicile in Arizona, and thus, the state courts had jurisdiction over the divorce proceeding. The court vacated the court of appeals' opinion, reversed the trial court's decision, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF QUIJADA/DOMINGUEZ" on Justia Law

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The petitioner, Virginia Garcia Cortes, a Mexican citizen, sought review of a Board of Immigration Appeals decision affirming an Immigration Judge's denial of her application for cancellation of removal. The Immigration Judge and Board of Immigration Appeals denied Garcia Cortes’s application on the basis that she failed to make the requisite showing under 8 U.S.C. § 1229b(b)(1)(D) that her removal would impose “exceptional and extremely unusual hardship” on her daughter.The Immigration Judge found that Garcia Cortes satisfied the first three statutory eligibility requirements for cancellation of removal. However, he rejected Garcia Cortes’s request after concluding that she could not satisfy the fourth statutory requirement—whether her removal would impose “exceptional and extremely unusual hardship” on a family member who was an American citizen or lawful permanent resident. The Immigration Judge ordered that Garcia Cortes either voluntarily leave the country or be removed. Garcia Cortes appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals (“the Board”). A divided three-member panel of the Board adopted and affirmed the Immigration Judge’s decision.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit concluded that the facts as found by the Immigration Judge do not support a determination that Garcia Cortes’s daughter would suffer exceptional and extremely unusual hardship if Garcia Cortes was removed. However, because the Immigration Judge failed to consider key portions of a therapist’s letter that was central to Garcia Cortes’s argument, the court vacated and remanded for further proceedings. View "Garcia Cortes v. Garland" on Justia Law

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The case involves Leopoldo Rivera-Valdes, a Mexican citizen who unlawfully entered the United States in 1992. In 1994, Rivera-Valdes failed to appear at his deportation hearing and was ordered deported in absentia. He was finally deported in 2006 after being apprehended. After being deported, Rivera-Valdes again unlawfully entered the United States. In 2019, he was charged with illegal reentry under 8 U.S.C. § 1326. He challenged the indictment, alleging that his 1994 in absentia deportation order violated due process. The district court denied the motion, and Rivera-Valdes entered a conditional guilty plea, preserving the right to appeal the constitutional challenge to his deportation.The district court denied Rivera-Valdes's motion to dismiss the indictment, ruling that his 1994 in absentia deportation order did not violate due process. Rivera-Valdes had argued that immigration authorities violated his due process rights by ordering him deported in absentia despite the notice of the deportation hearing being returned as undeliverable or unclaimed.The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court held that the deportation in absentia did not violate due process. The court found that whether Rivera-Valdes actually received the notice, the government followed its statutory obligations and reasonably attempted to inform him of the hearing by mailing notice to his last (and only) provided address. The court rejected Rivera-Valdes's argument that additional steps to notify him of his deportation hearing were required under Jones v. Flowers, 547 U.S. 220 (2006). The court concluded that even if Jones's "additional reasonable steps" standard did supersede the constitutional adequacy of notice as recognized in this court’s cases, the government still satisfied due process because no additional reasonable steps existed that were practicable for it to take. View "USA V. RIVERA-VALDES" on Justia Law

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The petitioner, Tania Lizeth Gonzalez-Lara, sought review of the Board of Immigration Appeals' (BIA) decision denying her motion to remand to apply for voluntary departure and dismissing her appeal of an Immigration Judge’s (IJ) denial of her applications for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). Gonzalez-Lara, a native of El Salvador, entered the United States in December 2017. She claimed persecution on account of her membership in particular social groups, including family members of Salvadoran police officers and Salvadoran women. The IJ found Gonzalez-Lara credible but denied her applications, finding that she had not suffered harm that rose to the level of past persecution and that her fear of future persecution was not objectively reasonable.The BIA affirmed the IJ's decision and denied Gonzalez-Lara's motion to remand to apply for voluntary departure. The BIA reasoned that Gonzalez-Lara did not show a well-founded fear of future persecution because she did not present evidence that the gangs have shown interest in her, her former partner, or family since she left El Salvador in 2017. The BIA also found that Gonzalez-Lara had waived the IJ’s denial of her CAT claim because she did not raise any specific argument on appeal.The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit denied the petition for review. The court found that the BIA erred in denying the motion to remand on the basis that Gonzalez-Lara had not previously applied for voluntary departure. However, the court concluded that the BIA’s error was harmless because Gonzalez-Lara did not allege facts to satisfy all elements of voluntary departure, and the record did not independently establish her prima facie eligibility. The court also found that substantial evidence supported the BIA’s finding that Gonzalez-Lara’s fear of harm was too speculative to support her claim for relief. View "GONZALEZ-LARA V. GARLAND" on Justia Law

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The case involves three aliens, Moris Esmelis Campos-Chaves, Varinder Singh, and Raul Daniel Mendez-Colín, who were ordered removed in absentia after failing to appear at their respective removal hearings. The Government had initiated removal proceedings against each of them, serving them with Notices to Appear (NTAs) that did not specify the time and date of the hearings. However, each alien was later provided with a notice specifying the time and place of the removal hearing. After being ordered removed in absentia, each alien sought to rescind the order, arguing that they did not receive a proper NTA.In the lower courts, the Fifth Circuit denied Campos-Chaves's petition for review, while the Ninth Circuit granted the petitions for Singh and Mendez-Colín. The Fifth Circuit based its decision on the fact that Campos-Chaves did not dispute receiving the subsequent notice specifying the time and place of the hearing. The Ninth Circuit, on the other hand, held that the lack of a single-document NTA alone rendered the in absentia removal orders rescindable.The Supreme Court of the United States held that to rescind an in absentia removal order on the ground that the alien did not receive notice in accordance with paragraph (1) or (2), the alien must show that he did not receive notice under either paragraph for the hearing at which the alien was absent and ordered removed. Because each of the aliens in these cases received a proper paragraph (2) notice for the hearings they missed and at which they were ordered removed, they cannot seek rescission of their in absentia removal orders on the basis of defective notice. The Court affirmed the judgment of the Fifth Circuit, reversed the Ninth Circuit’s judgment in Garland v. Mendez-Colín, and vacated and remanded the Ninth Circuit’s judgment in Garland v. Singh for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. View "Campos-Chaves v. Garland" on Justia Law

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The case involves a defendant, Nelson Barros, who was charged with assault and battery on a household member. Barros, a noncitizen, chose to represent himself during his arraignment and plea hearing. He signed a form acknowledging he had waived his right to counsel. The judge did not conduct any further inquiry to determine whether Barros' waiver of counsel was made knowingly and intelligently. Barros later admitted to sufficient facts to warrant a guilty verdict and was placed on probation for one year. After completing his probation, the charge was dismissed. However, upon returning to the U.S. from a trip to Portugal, Barros was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers due to his admission of guilt in the assault case.The lower courts denied Barros' motions to withdraw his plea. The motion judge found that Barros' waiver of the right to counsel was knowing and voluntary. Barros appealed, and the Supreme Judicial Court granted his application for direct appellate review.The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts held that a defendant's waiver of the right to counsel must be made knowingly and intelligently, regardless of whether the defendant is at arraignment or a plea hearing. The court confirmed that a trial court judge has the responsibility of ascertaining whether the waiver is made knowingly and intelligently. The court also recognized that for a noncitizen defendant, the disadvantages of self-representation include forgoing counsel's advice about the immigration consequences of a disposition. However, the court affirmed the lower court's decision on alternate grounds, concluding that Barros' waiver of counsel was invalid, but he failed to establish a substantial risk of a miscarriage of justice to prevail on appeal. View "Commonwealth v. Barros" on Justia Law

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The case involves a 52-year-old native of the Dominican Republic, G.P., who unlawfully entered the United States twice and was convicted for drug trafficking both times. After serving his sentence for the second conviction, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) intended to remove him again. However, G.P. expressed fear of retaliation in the Dominican Republic due to his cooperation with the government in prosecuting the leader of the drug trafficking organization. An asylum officer found his fear credible and placed him into withholding-only proceedings. G.P. applied for deferral of removal under the Convention Against Torture (CAT), but his application was denied by an immigration judge (IJ) and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). G.P. appealed the decision, and the case was remanded for further consideration of his CAT claim.While his CAT claim was pending, G.P. was held in immigration detention. He brought an application for a writ of habeas corpus, arguing that there was "no significant likelihood of removal in the reasonably foreseeable future," and that he should therefore be released subject to supervision. The district court disagreed, and G.P. appealed.The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court found that G.P.'s situation was distinguishable from the case of Zadvydas v. Davis, which G.P. cited as precedent. The court noted that G.P.'s detention was not indefinite or potentially permanent, as his CAT proceedings were still pending and there was no indication of bad faith or undue delay by the agency. Furthermore, G.P. did not dispute that if he was ultimately denied relief, the government would be able to remove him to the Dominican Republic. Therefore, the court concluded that G.P. had failed to show that there was "no significant likelihood of removal in the reasonably foreseeable future." View "G.P. v. Garland" on Justia Law