Justia Immigration Law Opinion Summaries

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Petitioner was born to unmarried parents in Mexico. Both of his parents are now deceased. His father was a Mexican national and his mother a U.S. citizen. Petitioner entered the United States in 2000, at which point he was unaware of any claim to U.S. citizenship. Thus, when he was convicted of burglary, he admitted that he was deportable and ineligible for relief. He was removed in 2003. However, in 2014, he applied for a Certificate of Citizenship, claiming that he had acquired U.S. citizenship at birth through his father. USCIS denied Petitioner's application and he subsequently filed a petition under 8 U.S.C. Sec. 1252(b)(1), along with an opposed motion to transfer his case to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas for a de novo determination of his citizenship claim under 8 U.S.C. Sec. 1252(b)(5)(B).The Ninth Circuit determined that Petitioner presented sufficient evidence to create a genuine issue of material fact concerning his claim of U.S. citizenship. Thus, the court transferred Petitioner's case to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas for a de novo review of his citizenship claim. View "Garza-Flores v. Mayorkas" on Justia Law

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Petitioner asserted that, if he were removed to his native country of El Salvador, he would be identified as a gang member based on his gang tattoos and face a significant risk of being killed or tortured. Relying on Matter of J-F-F-, 23 I. & N. Dec. 912 (A.G. 2006), the Board of Immigration Appeals (“Board”) concluded that Petitioner failed to demonstrate a clear probability of torture because he did not establish that every step in a hypothetical chain of events was more likely than not to happen.   The Ninth Circuit, in granting Petitioner’s petition for review the court held that the Board erred by failing to adequately consider Petitioner’s aggregate risk of torture from multiple sources, and erred in rejecting Petitioner’s expert’s credible testimony solely because it was not corroborated by additional country conditions evidence.   The court concluded that the Board erred by failing to assess Petitioner’s aggregate risk of torture. Discussing Cole v. Holder, 659 F.3d 762 (9th Cir. 2011), the court explained that when an applicant posits multiple theories for why he might be tortured, the relevant inquiry is whether the total probability that the applicant will be tortured exceeds 50 percent.   Here, the Board considered Petitioner’s two separate theories of torture as a single hypothetical chain of events and denied his CAT claim because the probability of that hypothetical chain occurring was not high enough. The court concluded that in doing so, the Board misapplied Cole and Matter of J-F-F-.  By requiring Petitioner to show that every step in two hypothetical chains was more likely than not to occur, the Board increased his CAT burden. View "MIGUEL VELASQUEZ-SAMAYOA V. MERRICK GARLAND" on Justia Law

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In a previous opinion dated September 21, 2021, the Fifth Circuit issued an opinion in this immigration case agreeing with Petitioner that the Board of Immigration Appeals ("BIA") "abused its discretion by entirely failing to address his CAT claim." In that opinion the court noted that a claim seeking CAT relief "is separate from . . . claims for asylum and withholding of removal and should receive separate analytical attention.” Thus, the court remanded the case to the BIA to address Petitioner's claim for relief under the Convention Against Torture ("CAT").On remand, the BIA determined that Petitioner failed to meet his burden to establish a prima facie case for CAT relief because Petitioner did not provide sufficient evidence to corroborate his alleged conversion to Christianity or his bisexuality, which bears on whether Petitioner has a clear probability of being tortured if he returns to Libya.Finding no error, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the denial of Petitioner's petition for review. View "Abushagif v. Garland" on Justia Law

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Menghistab, then a lawful U.S. permanent resident, pleaded guilty to rape in Indiana state court in 2011. The Department of Homeland Security began the process of removing him to Ethiopia. Because of his rape conviction and resulting sentence, Menghistab was barred from seeking asylum, discretionary withholding of removal, and waiver of removability. He was eligible only to apply for deferral of removal under the Convention against Torture. An immigration judge denied him that relief. The BIA affirmed.Ethiopia refused to issue Menghistab a travel document. He was released from custody in 2013 and continued to live in the United States until, in 2020, Ethiopia agreed to issue the travel document. The Department detained Menghistab pending removal. He moved to reopen his case, citing the changed circumstances in Ethiopia occasioned by the 2020 outbreak of civil war in the Tigray region in northern Ethiopia. The Tigray War has resulted in widespread attacks on civilians. Ethnic Eritreans, such as Menghistab, have suffered particularly severe human‐rights violations. The Board denied the motion without an evidentiary hearing.The Seventh Circuit remanded. A new hearing is needed to address the materiality of the war with respect to Menghistab’s risk of torture and whether Menghistab is an Ethiopian citizen. View "Menghistab v. Garland" on Justia Law

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Petitioner entered the United States on an F-1 nonimmigrant student visa on Dec. 29, 2009. Subsequently, she falsely claimed to be a U.S. citizen to gain employment, and the Department of Homeland Security served Petitioner with a Notice to Appear, charging her with being removable under 8 U.S.C. Sec. 1227(a)(1)(C)(i) (providing for the removal of an alien admitted as a nonimmigrant who has failed to maintain that nonimmigrant status or to comply with the conditions of that status) and Sec. 1227(a)(3)(D)(i) (providing for the removal of an alien who has falsely represented herself to be a United States citizen for any benefits such as employment). Petitioner proceeded pro see, explicitly waiving her right to counsel and denying the district court's offer of a continuance to secure counsel. Eventually, Petitioner obtained counsel.The Immigration Judge denied relief, and the Board of Immigration Appeals denied Petitioner's request for remand after she cited a change in circumstances.The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The Immigration Judge did not deny Petitioner her right to Due Process as the Immigration Judge did not commit a "fundamental procedural error" regarding the appointment of counsel. Additionally, the Immigration Judge did not violate Petitioner's Due Process when it refused to remand based on changed circumstances. View "Flora Holmes v. Merrick B. Garland" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the trial court's judgment declaring invalid the Department of Family and Protective Services Rule 748.7, which governs immigration detention centers, and enjoining the Department from granting licenses under the rule, holding that Plaintiffs had standing to challenge Rule 748.7.Plaintiffs, a nonprofit advocacy group, a day-care operator and several detainee mothers, individually and on behalf of their children, brought this action alleging that the Department lacked authority to adopt Rule 748.7 because it increased the safety risk to the detainees and their children. The trial court declared the rule invalid and enjoined the Department from granting licenses under the rule. The court of appeals reversed, holding that Plaintiffs lacked standing to assert their claims. View "Grassroots Leadership, Inc. v. Texas Department of Family & Protective Services" on Justia Law

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Aguirre-Zuniga’s family immigrated from Mexico to the U.S. when he was three years old. He is now raising his own six-year-old daughter, an American citizen in Indiana. He became a lawful permanent resident 15 years ago. His primary language is English, and he has visited Mexico only three times since emigrating. In 2018, he pled guilty to the delivery of methamphetamine in Indiana. DHS concluded that his conviction was an aggravated felony subjecting him to deportation, and the Immigration Judge and the Board of Immigration Appeals agreed.The Seventh Circuit vacated. The Indiana law prohibiting the delivery of methamphetamine criminalizes more conduct than the corresponding federal law given that Indiana defines “methamphetamine” in a way federal law does not. When a state statute is broader than its federal counterpart, a conviction under that statute cannot trigger a noncitizen’s deportation. View "Aguirre-Zuniga v. Garland" on Justia Law

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Petitioner asserted that changed circumstances in his native Jamaica— a spike in violence against members of the People’s National Party—justified his untimely second motion to reopen. Because an Immigration Judge in an earlier proceeding found Petitioner not credible and questioned his actual identity, the Board of Immigration Appeals (“Board”) ruled that the new evidence of political violence did not matter because Petitioner may not even be a member of the People’s National Party.   The Ninth Circuit denied in part and dismissed in part holding that the Board may rely on a previous adverse credibility determination to deny a motion to reopen if that earlier finding still factually undermines the petitioner’s new argument. The court concluded that the Board did not abuse its discretion in denying Petitioner’s motion to reopen. The court explained that to prevail on a motion to reopen alleging changed country conditions where the persecution claim was previously denied on adverse credibility grounds, the respondent must either overcome the prior credibility determination or show that the new claim is independent of the evidence that was found to be not credible.   Here, Petitioner did not challenge the adverse credibility finding but instead argued that his new evidence was independent of the evidence that was found to be not credible. The court rejected that argument. The court explained that the IJ had previously found Petitioner’s testimony about his identity not credible, thus undermining his entire claim. Moreover, Petitioner’s claims remained the same throughout his proceedings. The court concluded that the basis of Petitioner's motion to reopen therefore remained intertwined with his credibility problem. View "GARFIELD GREENWOOD V. MERRICK GARLAND" on Justia Law

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Petitioner was detained under 8 U.S.C. Section 1226(c), which provides for mandatory detention of noncitizens with certain criminal convictions. After Petitioner filed a habeas petition, the district court ordered that he receive a bond hearing, reasoning that his prolonged mandatory detention violated due process. An IJ denied bond, and the BIA affirmed. The district court asserted jurisdiction over Petitioner’s claims but denied habeas relief.   Affirming in part and vacating in part the Ninth Circuit held that: 1) federal courts lack jurisdiction to review the discretionary determination of whether a particular noncitizen poses a danger to the community such that he is not entitled to bond; and 2) the district court correctly denied Petitioner’s claims that the BIA erred or violated due process in denying bond.   The court held that the district court lacked jurisdiction to review the determination that Petitioner posed a danger to the community, concluding that dangerousness is a discretionary determination covered by the judicial review bar of 8 U.S.C. Section 1226(e). In concluding that the dangerousness determination is discretionary, the court observed that the only guidance as to what it means to be a “danger to the community” is an agency-created multifactorial analysis with no clear, uniform standard for what crosses the line into dangerousness. As to Petitioner’s remaining claims, the court concluded that the district court had jurisdiction to review them as constitutional claims or questions of law not covered by Section1226(e), but agreed with the district court that they must be denied. View "JAVIER MARTINEZ V. LOWELL CLARK" on Justia Law

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Defendant was charged with felony counts of sale/transportation/offer to sell a controlled substance (count 1) and possession for sale of a controlled substance (count 2). He pled guilty to count 1, offer to sell oxycodone in exchange for 36 months of formal probation with the service of 180 days in county jail. Count 2 was dismissed pursuant to the plea agreement. Defendant’s attorney and the trial court advised him at that time that he would be deported based on his negotiated plea. Seven years later he found himself the subject of deportation proceedings.   The trial court denied Defendant’s motion to vacate his conviction. The trial court factually found Defendant's credibility to be “severely lacking,” and his declaration was “deceptively phrased” to mislead the court that counsel had not recommended Defendant meet with an immigration attorney when counsel had, in fact, consulted with Defendant's immigration attorney.   The Second Appellate District affirmed and found that the trial court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion. The court explained that the plain and unambiguous language contained in the Felony Disposition Statement states: “If I am not a citizen and am pleading guilty to . . . a controlled substance offense, . . . I will be deported.”  The court explained that even on independent review, Defendant’s contentions fail. At the time of the plea proceeding, Defendant had lived in the United States for approximately seven years with his family. The contemplation of his life in Mexico, contemporaneous with his guilty plea, is persuasive evidence Defendant knew he would be deported. View "P. v. Garcia" on Justia Law