Justia Immigration Law Opinion Summaries

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Petitioner sought a review of a decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) dismissing his appeal from an order of an Immigration Judge (“IJ”) finding him removable under the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”). The IJ and BIA concluded that Petitioner is removable because his prior conviction for sexual abuse in the second degree under N.Y. Penal Law Section 130.60(2) 2 is both (1) “sexual abuse of a minor,” which is an “aggravated felony” under 8 U.S.C. Section 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii); and (2) “a crime of child abuse, child neglect, or child abandonment” under 8 U.S.C. Section 1227(a)(2)(E)(i).   The Second Circuit dismissed Petitioner’s petition in part and denied it in part. The court reasoned that a conviction under N.Y. Penal Law Section 130.60(2) constitutes “sexual abuse of a minor.” Further, the court wrote that “sexual abuse of a minor” is defined as an “aggravated felony” under the INA, and the court lacks jurisdiction to review a final order of removal against an alien who committed an “aggravated felony.” The court, therefore, dismissed Petitioner’s petition in part. Second, Petitioner has abandoned any arguments as to whether N.Y. Penal Law Section 130.60(2) constitutes a “crime of child abuse,” so the court declined to reach the issue and denied this aspect of the petition. View "Debique v. Garland" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeal affirming the decision of the trial court denying Defendant's motion to vacate his conviction, holding that holding that the court of appeals erred in ruling that Defendant failed adequately to corroborate his claim that immigration consequences were a paramount concern and thus that Defendant could not demonstrate prejudice within the meaning of Cal. Penal Code 1473.7.In 2004, Defendant, a native of Mexico, accepted a plea bargain and served one year in jail. In 2015, Defendant was detained by federal immigration authorities after a return flight to the United States, and his permanent residence card was seized. In his his third motion to vacate his conviction, Defendant argued that he had not been aware of the immigration consequences of his plea and that, had he been aware, he would have sought a plea with lesser consequences or gone to trial. The trial court denied the motion without holding an evidentiary hearing. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, under the totality of the circumstances, there was a reasonable probability that Defendant would have rejected the plea had he understood its immigration consequences. View "People v. Espinoza" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, a native and citizen of Guatemala, petitioned for review of the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) streamlined affirmance of the immigration judge’s (“IJ”) denial of her claims for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the United Nations Convention Against Torture (“CAT”). Petitioner was verbally and physically harassed and received death threats because her community in Guatemala perceived her to be a lesbian, including because she wore men’s clothing to work. Petitioner challenged the IJ’s findings that: (1) this treatment did not amount to persecution, (2) the relevant social group for asylum purposes is based on “manner of dress,” and (3) no persecution was committed by the Guatemalan government or by forces that the government was unwilling or unable to control.   The Ninth Circuit granted Petitioner’s petition for review. The panel held that (1) substantial evidence did not support the agency’s determination that the treatment Petitioner suffered did not amount to persecution, (2) the agency erred in characterizing Petitioner’s proposed social group and concluding that it was not cognizable, and (3) the agency erred by failing to consider highly probative evidence regarding the Guatemalan government’s willingness or ability to control the persecution.   The panel explained that in concluding that this treatment amounted simply to threats, the immigration judge failed to recognize that threats may be compelling evidence of past persecution, particularly when the threats are specific and menacing and accompanied by violent confrontations, near-confrontations and vandalism. Further, the panel wrote that the record suggested that the agency failed to consider all of the evidence. View "REBECA CRISTOBAL ANTONIO V. MERRICK GARLAND" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff American Civil Liberties Union Immigrants’ Rights Project (“ACLU”) brought a Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) suit in district court to compel Defendant, United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”), to produce agency records in the form of electronic spreadsheet data pertaining to five stages of the immigration enforcement and deportation process. ICE produced 21 spreadsheets of responsive data but did not comply with ACLU’s request to replace exempt Alien Identification Numbers (“A-Numbers”) on such spreadsheets with anonymized unique identifiers (“Unique IDs”). ACLU submits that such Unique IDs could be any combinations of numbers, letters, or symbols that, while meaningless in themselves, would allow ACLU to track datapoints pertaining to individual (but unidentified) aliens across ICE databases. The district court granted ICE’s motion for summary judgment, ruling that ACLU’s requested substitution effectively required ICE to create new records.   The Second Circuit reversed the award of summary judgment to ICE and remanded. The court reasoned that by redacting A-Numbers from the spreadsheets, it produced conveying datapoints by event rather than by person, ICE not only shielded the FOIA-exempt personal identifying information (“PII”) documented by the A-Numbers but also effectively deprived the public of access to nonexempt records in the same person-centric manner available to the agency. The court explained that the substitution of Unique IDs for A-Numbers does not create any new agency records and is a reasonable step to shield the exempt content of A-Numbers while preserving the function necessary to afford public access to non-exempt records in the same person-centric form or format available to the agency. View "ACLU Immigrants' Rts. Project v. ICE" on Justia Law

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Saban-Cach grew up in Sacatepéquez, Guatemala. He is of indigenous ethnicity. A local gang associated with MS-13 harassed Saban-Cach. Because of this abuse, Saban-Cach dropped out of school and fled to San Pedro. The gang still harassed him, including violent physical attacks from which he still has scars, Those attacks and attacks on family members were not reported to the police because the police did not respond to the complaints of indigenous people. After two unsuccessful attempts, in 2015 Saban-Cach entered the United States without inspection or apprehension. After he left Guatemala, the gang kidnapped, beat, and raped his 16-year-old sister, holding her for more than a month. The police allegedly ignored the family’s complaints.DHS encountered Saban-Cach in 2020. After he expressed a reasonable fear of returning to Guatemala, SabanCach was placed in withholding-only proceedings and sought relief under the Convention Against Torture. An IJ found Saban-Cach’s testimony credible but concluded that Saban-Cach did not establish a clear probability of persecution on account of a protected ground. The BIA affirmed the removal order. The Third Circuit vacated. The BIA erred in finding that Saban-Cach by conditioning a finding of past persecution on seeking—or sustaining injuries that require—professional medical care. The BIA failed to appropriately consider the cumulative effects of mistreatment. The IJ overlooked evidence that the harm Saban-Cach suffered was due to his being identified as an indigenous person. There is considerable evidence that government officials are willfully blind to the violence of gang members against indigenous people. View "Saban-Cach v. Attorney General United States" on Justia Law

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Cruz‐Velasco entered the U.S. without inspection in 1999. He has remained continuously present, raising his American‐born sons as a single father after the death of his partner. In 2014, Cruz‐Velasco was convicted of reckless driving, endangering safety, and operating a vehicle while intoxicated, with his nine‐ and 11‐year‐old sons in the car. In subsequent removal proceedings, Cruz‐Velasco sought cancellation of removal, 8 U.S.C. 1229b(b). While in removal proceedings, Cruz‐Velasco was convicted again with DUI and sentenced to serve another 10 days in jail. Cruz‐Velasco stopped drinking after his 2016 arrest and completed a court‐ordered substance abuse program.The IJ held that he was ineligible for cancellation of removal, having failed to establish that his sons would suffer hardship beyond what is predictable as a result of a parent’s removal and because his DUI convictions demonstrated a lack of good moral character. While his BIA appeal was pending, the Attorney General ruled that two or more DUI convictions in the relevant period raise a presumption that a noncitizen lacks good moral character, which cannot be overcome solely by showing rehabilitation. The BIA affirmed the removal order Amid the 2020 COVID‐19 pandemic, Cruz‐Velasco sought to reopen his application, submitting new evidence that he had been diagnosed with diabetes and that this condition increased his risk of dying from COVID‐19 in Mexico. The BIA denied Cruz‐Velasco’s motion, without specifically addressing arguments concerning his diabetes. The Seventh Circuit denied a petition for review. View "Cruz-Velasco v. Garland" on Justia Law

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Petitioner and her daughter, D.A.M.I., natives and citizens of Guatemala, petition for review of an order of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) affirming the immigration judge’s (IJ) decision finding Petitioner removable and denying her application for asylum and withholding of removal. Petitioner alleged persecution on account of her membership in two particular social groups (PSG)—witnesses who cooperate with law enforcement and nuclear family members of Interiano-Erazo—and on account of an imputed political opinion. Petitioner challenged only the BIA’s determination that she failed to demonstrate that her proposed group of “witnesses who cooperate with law enforcement” is particular and socially distinct within Guatemalan society.   The Eighth Circuit denied the petition. The court explained that even assuming that the Eighth Circuit’s jurisprudence does not require as a matter of law that witness-based PSGs include an element of public testimony, the BIA and the IJ committed no error because each found that the record contains insufficient evidence to demonstrate that Guatemalan society views “witnesses who cooperate with law enforcement” as a socially distinct group. Accordingly, the court found that Petitioner has failed to show that the record, in this case, compels a conclusion contrary to the BIA’s determination that Guatemalan society does not view “witnesses who cooperate with law enforcement” as a socially distinct group. View "Judith Lemus-Coronado v. Merrick Garland" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, a native and citizen of Guyana, sought a review of a decision of the BIA affirming a decision of an Immigration Judge (“IJ”) ordering Petitioner’s removal based on a prior aggravated felony conviction. At issue is whether Petitioner’s conviction for attempted first-degree assault in violation of New York Penal Law Sections 110.00, 120.10(1) is a crime of violence under 18 U.S.C. Section 16(a).   The Second Circuit concluded that it is and denied the petition for review. The court explained that Petitioner’s argument that NYPL Section 120.10(1) is not a crime of violence because the statute does not use the words “physical force” fails because the intent to cause serious physical injury, particularly in combination with the deadly weapon or dangerous instrument element, necessarily encompasses the use of violent force required under Section 16(a). View "Singh v. Garland" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit denied Petitioner's petition for review of an immigration judge's (IJ) denial of his application for withholding of removal, holding that the Petitioner's arguments were unavailing.Petitioner, a native and citizen of El Salvador, was subject to removal. Petitioner expressed fear of persecution or torture with the asylum officer. The asylum officer rejected Petitioner's reasonable fear claim, concluding that there was insufficient evidence to find that Petitioner had been attacked because of a protected ground. The IJ upheld the asylum officer's decision. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the IJ did not err by dismissing Petitioner's gang-related claim. View "Reyes-Ramos v. Garland" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, a native and citizen of India, petitions for review of an order of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) dismissing his applications for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). Petitioner asserts that he suffered past persecution and has a well-founded fear of future persecution due to his familial association with his brother, who is a member of the Shiromani Akali Dal Party (Mann Party), and his own affiliation with that Party. The Mann Party advocates for the creation of a sovereign state for Sikh people and is opposed by the Congress Party. The immigration judge (IJ) and the BIA concluded that Petitioner did not qualify for asylum or withholding of removal because the injuries and threats that Petitioner had suffered at the hands of Congress Party members were not sufficiently serious.   The Ninth Circuit filed an order (1) amending the opinion filed on September 14, 2022; (2) denying the Respondent’s petition for panel rehearing; and (3) indicating that no further petitions for rehearing or for rehearing en banc would be entertained. In the amended opinion, the panel granted in part and denied in part Petitioner’s petition for review of a decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals, and remanded, holding that substantial evidence did not support the BIA’s determination that the harm Petitioner suffered did not rise to the level of past persecution, but substantial evidence did support the BIA’s determination that the harm did not amount to past torture and that Petitioner failed to show that he would more likely than not face a clear probability of future torture. View "SHAMSHER SINGH V. MERRICK GARLAND" on Justia Law