Justia Immigration Law Opinion Summaries

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The First Circuit vacated the decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) denying Petitioner's motion to reopen sua sponte his immigration proceedings, holding that the BIA departed from his settled course of adjudication and that remand was required consistent with this opinion. Petitioner argued that the BIA clearly erred when it determined that he was not entitled to relief from deportation under section 237(a)(2)(A)(vi) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(vi) (the Pardon Waiver Clause). In making its determination, the BIA concluded that a pardon issued by the Connecticut Board of Pardons and Paroles is "not effective for purposes of establishing entitlement to" a waiver of deportation. The First Circuit held (1) this Court has jurisdiction to review colorable legal and constitutional challenges to denials of motions to reopen sua sponte; and (2) the BIA departed from its settled course of adjudication by deeming a pardon from Connecticut insufficient under the Pardon Waiver Clause. View "Thompson v. Barr" on Justia Law

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Maria, a 33-year-old citizen of Guatemala, is a member of a Mayan indigenous group. She never attended school and cannot read or write. Maria lives in Nashville and works at a hotel. Maria is married to Juan who currently resides in Guatemala. They have four children. The older two were born in Guatemala and the younger two were born in the U.S. Huberto, 12, is autistic and cannot speak; he resides with Maria in Nashville. Maria sought asylum and withholding of removal based on domestic violence suffered at the hands of Juan, which arose within the broader context of systemic violence, harassment, and subordination of indigenous Mayan women in Guatemala. The BIA found that Maria articulated a cognizable particular social group and that the harm she suffered rose to the level of past persecution but concluded that the government effectively rebutted her well-founded fear of future persecution. The Sixth Circuit vacated and remanded. The Board’s decision was not supported by substantial evidence; Maria is still a Mayan indigenous woman and remains married to Juan, who will not agree to a divorce unless she cedes custody of her children. Physical separation does not necessarily indicate that a relationship has ended. Maria cannot “reasonably expect the assistance of the government” in controlling Juan, who has violated a restraining order, beat their oldest child, repeatedly threatened to kill Maria or their children, and purchased a gun with the intent to kill her. View "Antonio v. Barr" on Justia Law

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Reyes-Romero was prosecuted for unlawful reentry, 8 U.S.C. 1326. The district court dismissed the indictment, finding that irregularities in Reyes-Romero’s removal proceeding constituted fundamental errors that caused him prejudice. The court stated that the government’s subjective motivation for its motion to dismiss was a desire to rely on the 2011 removal order in future immigration proceedings, which“taint[ed]” the Government’s effort. The court then awarded Reyes-Romero fees pursuant to the Hyde Amendment, under which a prevailing defendant in a federal criminal prosecution can apply to have his attorney’s fees and costs covered by the government if the defendant shows that “the position of the United States” in the prosecution “was vexatious, frivolous, or in bad faith,” 18 U.S.C. 3006A. The Third Circuit reversed. “Although assuredly born of good intentions and understandable frustration with faulty processes in the underlying removal proceeding,” the award was not based on the type of pervasive prosecutorial misconduct with which the Amendment is concerned. Reyes-Romero’s 2011 expedited removal proceeding deviated from the required ordered, sensible process and reasonable minds may differ about how the prosecution should have reacted once those issues became apparent. Where reasonable minds may differ, however, and where the government made objectively reasonable and defensible choices, there can be no Hyde Amendment liability. View "United States v. Reyes-Romero" on Justia Law

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Guzman crossed the border as a teenager in 1998 and has never returned to Mexico. In 2014, Guzman was served with notice of removal proceedings. Guzman applied for asylum, withholding of removal, and relief under the Convention Against Torture. Guzman testified that another family had murdered his father and grandfather; Guzman later suffered physical abuse by his stepfather. No one reported that abuse because of his political position. Guzman testified that he fears returning to Mexico because his stepfather, who still has police connections, would kill him and that the individuals who murdered his relatives would believe that he had come to avenge his father’s death and would try to kill him. The IJ found Guzman “generally credible,” but that his testimony alone was insufficient without corroboration and that Guzman could not establish a well-founded fear of future persecution. The BIA upheld the denials of relief, reasoning that Guzman did not adequately explain why he could not obtain affidavits from his aunt, sister, or mother “since he remains in contact” and that even with adequate corroboration, the persecution “was not based on his membership in [a particular social group].” The Sixth Circuit vacated. Substantial evidence does not support the determinations regarding the unavailability of evidence to corroborate Guzman’s claims. The BIA incorrectly required Guzman to demonstrate that his membership in a particular social group was “at least one central reason” for his persecution. View "Guzman-Vazquez v. Barr" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit denied Petitioner's petition for review of the decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) affirming the immigration judge's decision denying Petitioner's claims for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT) and ordering Petitioner removed, holding that Petitioner's arguments lacked merit. In finding that Petitioner did not meet his burden to show eligibility for any of the grounds for relief he sought the immigration judge (IJ) concluded that Petitioner was not credible for several reasons. The BIA affirmed. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the IJ's adverse credibility determination was supported by substantial evidence; (2) the introduction of law enforcement gang database records did not violate Petitioner's due process rights; and (3) even if the BIA erred in applying the wrong legal standard in its analysis of Petitioner's CAT claim, any such error would be harmless. View "Diaz Ortiz v. Barr" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit denied a petition for review of the BIA's decision affirming the denial of petitioner's motion for reconsideration. The panel's review for legal or constitutional error under Bonilla v. Lynch, 840 F.3d 575 (9th Cir. 2016), does not encompass alleged inconsistencies between the BIA's grants or denials of discretionary relief. Rather, the panel looked to whether the particular decision at issue involved legal error. In this case, the panel held that the BIA's denial of equitable tolling was not unreasonable; notwithstanding the BIA's precedent regarding fundamental changes in the law, the BIA's denial of sua sponte reconsideration here was not premised on legal or constitutional error; and petitioner's "settled course" argument is barred by the panel's general rule that it lacks jurisdiction to review claims "that the BIA should have exercised its sua sponte power" in a given case. View "Lona v. Barr" on Justia Law

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Francisco, a citizen of Guatemala, obtained lawful U.S. permanent resident status in 1989. In 2012, Francisco pleaded guilty to attempted grand larceny in the second degree in New York; Francisco had obtained a stolen laptop and contacted the laptop’s owner and demanded money. During this exchange, Francisco sent the laptop’s owner sexually explicit pictures that Francisco had found on the laptop. The owner contacted the police. Francisco was sentenced to five years of probation. In 2018, Francisco returned from a trip abroad and sought admission as a returning lawful permanent resident. Instead, Francisco was classified as an arriving alien and was deemed inadmissible under 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(2)(A)(i)(I) as an alien convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude (CIMT). Francisco filed an unsuccessful application for discretionary relief of cancellation of removal. The BIA dismissed Francisco’s appeal, citing Matter of Diaz-Lizarraga (2016), in which the BIA promulgated a broader standard for determining whether a larceny offense constituted a categorical CIMT and holding that New York’s second-degree grand larceny statute defines a categorical CIMT because it requires the accused to take or withhold property with the intent to permanently or virtually permanently appropriate it or deprive the rightful owner of its use. The Third Circuit vacated, joining other circuits in ruling that the BIA should not have retroactively applied Diaz-Lizarraga. An alien defendant’s decision about whether to plead guilty, implicate distinctively weighty reliance interests; there is no discernable BIA uniformity interest in retroactively applying Diaz-Lizarraga. The BIA uniformly applied the prior standard for more than seven decades before changing course. View "Francisco-Lopez v. Attorney General United States" on Justia Law

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An Immigration Judge with the Board of Immigration Appeals moved sua sponte to reopen Juvenal Reyes-Vargas' removal proceedings. The Board ruled that under 8 C.F.R. 1003.23(b)(1) the Board ruled that this regulation removed the IJ’s jurisdiction to reopen an alien’s removal proceedings after the alien has departed the United States (the regulation’s “post-departure bar”). The Tenth Circuit reviewed the Board's interpretation of its regulation using the framework announced in Kisor v. Wilkie, 139 S. Ct. 2400 (2019), which clarified when and how courts defer to an agency interpreting its own regulations. Under that case, the Tenth Circuit determined it could defer to the Board’s interpretation only if the Court concluded, after rigorously applying all interpretative tools, that the regulation presented a genuine ambiguity and that the agency’s reading was reasonable and entitled to controlling weight. Applying this framework here, the Tenth Circuit concluded the regulation was not genuinely ambiguous on the issue in dispute: whether the post-departure bar eliminated the IJ’s jurisdiction to move sua sponte to reopen removal proceedings. In fact, the regulation’s plain language conclusively answered the question: the post-departure bar applies to a party’s “motion to reopen,” not to the IJ’s own sua sponte authority to reopen removal proceedings. So the Court did not defer, and granted Reyes-Vargas’s petition for review, vacated the Board’s decision, and remanded for further proceedings. On remand, the Board had to review the IJ’s conclusory decision that Reyes-Vargas had not shown “exceptional circumstances” as required before an IJ can move sua sponte to reopen removal proceedings. View "Reyes-Vargas v. Barr" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit denied a petition for review of the BIA's dismissal of petitioner's appeal from the IJ's order denying his applications for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). The court held that substantial evidence supported the BIA's asylum determination, because petitioner failed to show past persecution, a well-founded fear of future persecution, and that it would be unreasonable for him to relocate to another part of Mexico, away from his father's extortionists. Likewise, petitioner failed to carry his burden for withholding of removal. Finally, substantial evidence supported the BIA's denial of CAT protection, because petitioner failed to show that the acts and threats rose to the level of persecution and that the drug cartel—to the extent they torture others in Mexico—do so with the acquiescence of public officials. The court also held that the BIA did not err in determining that the Notice of Hearing triggered the stop-time rule. Furthermore, even if the BIA engaged in impermissible factfinding by adjudicating his request for voluntary departure, rather than remanding the matter to the IJ, the error was harmless. View "Munoz-Granados v. Barr" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit denied petitions for review of the BIA's final order of removal. Applying the modified categorical approach, the court held that defendant's prior conviction for distribution of cocaine under Virginia Code 18.2-248, including distribution of that substance as an accommodation under Virginia Code 18.2-248(D), satisfies the federal definitions of an "aggravated felony" and of a crime "relating to a controlled substance" pursuant to 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii), 1227(a)(2)(B)(i). The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying petitioner's motion to reconsider. View "Cucalon v. Barr" on Justia Law