Justia Immigration Law Opinion Summaries

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USCIS permissibly construed the statutory phrase "accompanying, or following to join" in 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(15)(U)(ii) when it adopted its regulation, 8 C.F.R. 214.14(f)(4), requiring that a spouse's qualifying relationship exist at the time of the initial U-visa petition and that the qualifying relationship continues throughout the adjudication of the derivative petition. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to government defendants, according Chevron deference to USCIS's interpretation of the statute in enacting the regulation. Given the deference to the agency to impose regulations interpreting (and gap filling) the immigration statutes, the panel held that the requirement was a reasonable interpretation. The panel also held that the equal protection clause has not been violated, because children and spouses were not similarly situated and distinction between nonimmigrant derivative spouses was rationally based. View "Medina Tovar v. Zuchowski" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Alonso Martinez-Perez sought review of a final Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) order that dismissed his appeal, holding that neither the BIA nor the Immigration Court had jurisdiction to grant Petitioner’s application for cancellation of removal. Petitioner was a native and citizen of Mexico. He entered the United States in 2001, without being inspected and admitted or paroled. On April 9, 2009, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) charged him as removable from the United States pursuant to the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) as an alien present in the United States without being admitted or paroled. Immigration officials served Petitioner with a notice to appear, which did not include a date and time for his hearing. One week later, Petitioner received notice of the date and time of his hearing in a separate document. Petitioner, through counsel, admitted the allegations contained in the notice to appear and conceded the charge of removability. The Immigration Judge found Petitioner removable. The Tenth Circuit found the Supreme Court held that a notice to appear that omits the removal proceeding’s time or place does not stop the alien’s accrual of continuous presence in the United States for purposes of cancellation of removal. The requirements of a notice to appear were claim-processing rules; the Court thus concluded the Immigration Court had authority to adjudicate issues pertaining to Petitioner’s removal even though Petitioner’s notice to appear lacked time-and-date information. With respect to issues raised regarding the BIA’s or Immigration Judge’s jurisdiction to grant Petitioner’s application in the absence of establishing a qualifying relative at the time of hearing: the Tenth Circuit concluded that for the BIA to conclude that neither it nor the Immigration Court had jurisdiction to grant Petitioner’s application was error. Moreover, before the BIA, Petitioner alleged and described what he contended was an improper delay on the part of the Immigration Court. Given this case’s procedural history, which is undisputed, the Tenth Circuit concluded it was within the BIA’s jurisdiction to interpret the applicable statutes in a way that would not penalize Petitioner for the Immigration Court’s delay. Because the BIA erred in holding that it lacked jurisdiction to grant Petitioner’s application and, in turn, failed to exercise its interpretive authority, the Court remanded. View "Martinez-Perez v. Barr" on Justia Law

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Defendant-Appellant Petrona Gaspar-Miguel appealed a district court’s affirmance of her conviction for entering the United States. On appeal, she contended the district court’s conclusion that she “entered” the United States even though she was under the constant surveillance of a border patrol agent was contrary to established law defining “entry.” The Tenth Circuit rejected this argument and affirmed the district court. View "United States v. Gaspar-Miguel" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit denied a petition for review of the BIA's determination that petitioner committed a crime involving moral turpitude. The panel held that an aggravated assault conviction under Arizona Revised Statutes 13-1203(A)(2) and 13-1204(A)(2) qualifies as a crime involving moral turpitude that made petitioner removable. In this case, the parties have treated both the basic and aggravated assault provisions as divisible, and the panel agreed that such an approach comported with circuit and state precedent. In consideration of the charging document, plea agreement, and plea colloquy together, the panel held that it was clear petitioner was convicted under sections 13-1203(A)(2) and 13-1204(A)(2). The panel was satisfied that under its cases, an aggravated assault conviction under sections 13-1203(A)(2) and 13-1204(A)(2) involving the use of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument qualifies as a crime involving moral turpitude. View "Altayar v. Barr" on Justia Law

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A conviction under California Penal Code 114 is not an aggravated felony or a crime involving moral turpitude under the Immigration and Nationality Act. The Ninth Circuit granted a petition for review of the BIA's decision concluding that petitioner was ineligible for cancellation of removal due to her conviction under section 114. The panel used the categorical approach to determine whether the California statute categorically quaifies as an aggravated felony. The necessary elements for conviction under section 114 are: (1) the use; (2) of a false document; (3) to conceal citizenship or alien status; (4) with specific intent. The panel compared these elements with the federal definition of an aggravated felony and held that the California statute cannot be a match to the federal offense because it includes documents, such as fake drivers' licenses, that are not enumerated in the description of the federal crime. Furthermore, the state statute was not divisible. The panel also held that section 114 did not constitute a crime involving moral turpitude because, under the categorical approach, section 114 does not require fraudulent intent. Therefore, the panel held that the BIA erred in holding that petitioner's state conviction precluded her from consideration of cancellation of removal. Accordingly, the panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Jauregui-Cardenas v. Barr" on Justia Law

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Kada, a Chaldean Christian from Iraq, immigrated with his family at age 12 as Lawful Permanent Residents. Kada was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon and carrying a concealed weapon. Charged with removability, 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(C), Kada was represented by Attorney Kent, who indicated that he would apply for Convention Against Torture (CAT) relief. Kent failed to file Kada’s CAT application or to request an extension. The IJ found Kada removable. Kent moved to reopen, arguing that hospitalizations prevented him from meeting the deadlines. Kent attached his medical records and included Kada’s CAT application and evidence. Kada explained that he had uncles who “disappeared under Saddam Hussein,” and other family members “kidnapped by ISIS,” that he is “completely Americanized,” knowing “little Arabic.” Kada argued that, if he were not tortured as a Chaldean Christian, he would be tortured by Iraqi authorities because of his criminal record and deportee status. The IJ denied Kada’s motion, finding that Kent had failed to establish his incapacity on or shortly before the filing deadline. The BIA denied an appeal. With new counsel, Kada again moved to reopen, arguing ineffective assistance of counsel. Kada was removed. He provided a declaration that, in Iraq, men pointed weapons at him but let him go. Kada has since stayed hidden without access to medication. Kada’s friend reported the incident to the police and perpetrators were apprehended. They confessed that they wanted to kidnap Kada to blackmail his family. The BIA denied Kada’s motion, concluding that Kada had not demonstrated prejudice. The Sixth Circuit vacated. The BIA failed to account for evidence and prior decisions, involving nearly identical circumstances and did not analyze whether Kada showed a reasonable probability that, but for the ineffective assistance, he would have been entitled to remain in the U.S. View "Kada v. Barr" on Justia Law

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Vasquez-Abarca’s parents brought him to the U.S. in 1986. In 1995, at age 14, he was arrested for having sex with a 12-year-old but told authorities that he was either 16-17 years old and was convicted of a felony sex offense. He was deported in 1997. Vasquez-Abarca reentered illegally and was arrested for disorderly conduct. In 2001, he was convicted of failing to register as a sex offender and charged with illegal reentry, 8 U.S.C. 1326(a). He was sentenced to 57 months in prison. He was deported in 2005. Vasquez-Abarca reentered in 2006. In the following years, he committed multiple driving-related offenses, resulting in two felony convictions in Georgia; after his release, he was sentenced in Illinois to an additional 24 months for violating the terms of his supervised release on the illegal reentry conviction. He was deported in 2015. Vasquez-Abarca illegally re-entered again in 2016. He was arrested on an outstanding warrant for using a fake driver’s license and was convicted of a felony. Vasquez-Abarca also pleaded guilty to illegally reentering. The guidelines range was 30-37 months. The defense argued that Vasquez-Abarca’s driving violations stemmed from his lack of legal residency status. The court imposed a sentence of 72 months; 8 U.S.C. 1326(b)(2) authorized a sentence of up to 20 years. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The sentence was a reasonable exercise of the judge’s discretion under 18 U.S.C. 3553(a). The judge gave a sufficient explanation for the decision, based primarily on Vasquez-Abarca’s criminal history and that a previous 57-month sentence for the same crime had not deterred him. View "United States v. Vasquez-Abarca" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's convictions for procuring naturalization unlawfully, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1425(a), and misuse of evidence of an unlawfully issued certificate of naturalization, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1423. The court held that the annotated Form N-400 was (1) admissible non-hearsay as an adopted admission of a party-opponent under Federal Rule of Evidence 801, and, (2) alternatively, was properly admitted under the public record hearsay exception in Federal Rule of Evidence 803. Furthermore, the officer's red marks in the annotated Form N-400 Application was not testimonial and did not violate the Confrontation Clause. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting defendant's post-Miranda statement, and the evidence was sufficient to sustain defendant's conviction as to Count 1. View "United States v. Santos" on Justia Law

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O.C., a 14-year-old refugee from Guatemala, asked the superior court to make the required Special immigrant juvenile findings, a necessary first step under the federal immigration law that allowed abandoned, unaccompanied minors living in the United States to apply for status as permanent legal residents (SIJ findings). A mandatory Judicial Council form was created for this purpose. Items 4(b), 5, and 6 on the form required the superior court to detail its findings, citing California law. The Court of Appeal determined the superior court failed to cite California statutory or case law in items 4(b) and 6, and did not check the box in item 5 to indicate O.C. could not reunify with her mother, who was deceased. Treating O.C.'s appeal as a petition for a writ of mandate, the Court of Appeal granted the petition and ordered the probate court to vacate its SIJ findings and issue new findings for items 4(b) and 6 of the mandatory Judicial Council form baed on state law, as proposed by O.C. and in compliance with federal rules and regulations. View "O.C. v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of a petition challenging USCIS's denial of petitioner's application for naturalization. USCIS and the district court found that petitioner and her first husband were both California domiciliaries at the time they obtained their Korean divorce, meaning that their divorce was of "no force or effect" in California. At issue was whether petitioner was "domiciled" in California at the time of her divorce. The panel held that petitioner, as a B-2 nonimmigrant whose lawful status had lapsed, was precluded from establishing lawful domicile in California by operation of federal law. Therefore, the panel held that petitioner's divorce and subsequent marriage were valid under California law, she was properly admitted for permanent residency based on her marriage to a United States citizen, and she is entitled to naturalization. View "Park v. Barr" on Justia Law