Justia Immigration Law Opinion Summaries

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Petitioner Santos Raul Escobar-Hernandez has filed a petition for review of the Board of Immigration Appeals’ decision affirming the immigration judge’s denial of his application for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT). The petition’s underlying facts rest on Petitioner’s testimony, which the immigration judge found to be credible. Petitioner is a native and citizen of El Salvador and entered the United States without a valid entry document. He fled El Salvador after he was assaulted by two men, resulting in injuries requiring medical treatment. The assault occurred when the men, one named "Nelson," noticed some graffiti critical of a political party on a fence near Petitioner’s home. Although Petitioner was not politically active and told the men he did not paint the graffiti, Nelson said Petitioner was responsible for it because it was on his house and demanded he remove it. When Petitioner responded that he could not pay for removal, the men hit him and threatened to kill him. Petitioner was unsure if the men assaulted him because of the political graffiti or if they used it as an excuse to assault him merely because he was a vulnerable youth. Petitioner later removed the graffiti, but Nelson attacked him twice more and continued to threaten him. Reports to local police went ignored; Petitioner averred he feared returning to his home town because of the threats, and he feared relocating elsewhere in El Salvador because other people could hurt him. In his petition for review, Petitioner contends the BIA should have granted him asylum and withheld his removal because he suffered past persecution and has a well- founded fear of suffering future persecution based on political opinions Nelson imputed to him. Petitioner also argues the BIA should have granted him protection under CAT because, if he returns to El Salvador, Nelson will likely torture him with the acquiescence of law enforcement. On the record before it, the Tenth Circuit could not say any reasonable adjudicator would be compelled to reach conclusions contrary to those reached by BIA. The Court therefore affirmed denial of asylum and protection under CAT. View "Escobar-Hernandez v. Barr" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of a class C felony drug offense and prison sentence, holding that immigration status per se is not an appropriate sentencing consideration but that immigration status may be taken into account to the extent it affects an otherwise relevant sentencing factor. Defendant, a Mexican national, pled guilty to a felony drug offense and was placed on immigration hold for likely deportation. Defendant sought probation, but the district court imposed a prison sentence, expressing the view that it would not be feasible to order probation for a defendant who was going to be deported to Mexico. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) a defendant's immigration status may not be the basis for a sentence, but to the extent it affects an otherwise relevant sentencing factor it may be taken into account; and (2) on the record, the district court properly determined that probation would not be appropriate for someone whose probation would need to be supervised in Mexico. View "State v. Valdez" on Justia Law

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Malukas, a citizen of Lithuania, entered the U.S. in 1992 on a tourist visa and did not leave when it expired. In 1995 he was convicted of weapons-related felonies. Malukas applied for discretionary relief from removal as the spouse of a U.S. citizen. The Board of Immigration Appeals denied relief. His motion for reconsideration was denied in 2003. Malukas did not seek judicial review but remained in the U.S. His Lithuanian passport had expired; Lithuania would not issue new documents. In 2018 Malukas filed a second motion to reconsider and a motion to reopen, contending that the removal order is invalid because the proceeding began with a “Notice to Appear” that did not include a hearing date and time. The date and time were furnished in a later document. He also contended that he had been rehabilitated and that Lithuania’s failure to accept his return justified discretionary relief. The Board denied this motion. Malukas asked the Board to reopen sua sponte because time-and-number limits do not restrict the Board’s authority to act independently. The Seventh Circuit denied relief, noting that reopening would not be sua sponte but would be a response to the motion, subject to the time-and-number limits and that the Board’s discretionary authority is not subject to judicial review. The rehabilitation and passport arguments are substantive and the Board adequately stated its reasons. View "Malukas v. Barr" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of petitioners, a class of noncitizens subject to reinstated removal orders, holding that they were detained under 8 U.S.C. 1226 because a decision on removal remains "pending" until their withholding-only proceedings are complete. The court read the plain text of the provisions at issue to ensure that they fit together to form a workable statutory framework, holding that section 1226 applies when there is still "pending" a legal determination that must be made before a noncitizen may be removed; and once there are no remaining legal impediments to removal, section 1231's 90-day removal period begins. The court explained that the government lacks the authority to actually execute orders of removal while withholding-only proceedings are ongoing and thus petitioners were detained under section 1226. Therefore, the court agreed with the district court that the relevant provisions of section 1226, rather than section 1231, govern petitioners' detention, entitling petitioners to individualized bond hearings. View "Guzman Chavez v. Hott" on Justia Law

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Defendant's prior conviction in Washington for delivery of cocaine is an aggravated felony under 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(43), which bars him from establishing the "good moral character" necessary for naturalization. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's complaint, challenging DHS's denial of his application for naturalization. The court held that accomplice liability under the Washington statute is no broader than under the federal Immigration and Nationality Act, and the Washington statute is no broader than the federal Act regarding "administering" a controlled substance. View "Bourtzakis v. U.S. Attorney General" on Justia Law

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In 1996, Rizk a citizen of Lebanon, received deferred admission to the U.S. as the fiancée of a U.S. citizen, Derbass. They married in 1998. Rizk obtained conditional permanent resident status. They divorced in 2001. Rizk requested a waiver of the requirement to file a joint petition to remove the conditions on residence. An immigration officer interviewed Rizk, giving her the opportunity to submit evidence. Rizk’s statements concerning the fatherhood of her children and the whereabouts of her alleged first ex-husband, conflicted with statements made in connection with her divorce. Rizk provided no evidence to establish a shared residence with Derbass and no evidence relating to their combination of financial assets and liabilities. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services determined that theirs “was a sham marriage entered into for the primary purpose of enabling [Rizk] to evade immigration laws and to obtain immigration benefits fraudulently.” Rizk returned to Lebanon and attempted to obtain a visa. USCIS denied those petitions under 8 U.S.C. 1154(c). Rizk’s daughter (a U.S. citizen), filed a new I-130 petition (8 U.S.C. 1151(b)) on Rizk’s behalf. USCIS approved that petition without conducting interviews; the previous finding of fraud was not taken into consideration. USCIS soon discovered its mistake and revoked the approval. The Board of Immigration Appeals held that Rizk was ineligible for a visa under section 1154(c). The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of her complaint. The revocation decision was not arbitrary. View "Jomaa v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit denied a petition for review of the BIA's order denying cancellation of removal and ordering petitioner removed, and subsequently denying his timely motion to reopen proceedings. The court held that petitioner was challenging the discretionary conclusion of the BIA against him and thus the court did not have jurisdiction. The court also held that the BIA did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion to reopen, because the BIA had the final authority to decide whether to grant discretionary cancellation-of-removal relief. View "Urrutia Robles v. Barr" on Justia Law

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Zacahua, a citizen of Mexico, lived as an unauthorized alien in the U.S. for over 20 years. Although he was employed by a Hilton hotel, Zacahua also transported heroin. Zacahua and codefendants were indicted for conspiracy to distribute heroin. During Zacahua’s bond hearing, the government invoked Zacahua’s immigration status to argue that he was a serious flight risk because he faced the likelihood of removal. The court held a Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11 hearing, advised Zacahua that he faced a 120-month mandatory minimum sentence, and informed Zacahua of his rights and the potential consequences of a felony conviction. The court never told Zacahua that he might be removed from the U.S. and denied future admission as a consequence of his guilty plea, as Rule 11(b)(1)(O) requires. During an interview with a Probation Officer, Zacahua acknowledged his unauthorized status and that he faced deportation. He expressed hopes of working at a Hilton hotel in Mexico and of caring for his ailing parents. At his subsequent sentencing hearing, the court acknowledged the likelihood of deportation and discussed Zacahua’s employment prospects in Mexico. Zacahua spoke of returning to Mexico as quickly as possible. The court sentenced him to the mandatory minimum: 120 months. The Seventh Circuit rejected his attempt to withdraw his plea based on the Rule 11 violation. Zacahua does not demonstrate a reasonable probability that, had the court provided the warning, he would not have pleaded guilty. View "United States v. Zacahua" on Justia Law

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This case arose from a series of plans overseen by defendants to develop several real estate projects in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. Work on these projects spanned eight years, including fundraising and planning stages, and involved several limited partnerships and other corporate entities (the Jay Peak Projects). The Jay Peak Projects, at the direction of defendants Ariel Quiros and William Stenger, raised investment funds largely through a federal program known as the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program (EB-5 Program). In April 2016, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed a lawsuit alleging securities fraud, wire fraud, and mail fraud against the Jay Peak Projects developers, Ariel Quiros and William Stenger. The Vermont Department of Financial Regulation also filed suit against Quiros and Stenger, alleging similar claims. On the basis of these and other allegations, plaintiffs, all foreign nationals who invested in the Jay Peak Projects, filed a multi-count claim against ACCD and several individual defendants. Intervenors, a group of foreign investors who were allegedly defrauded by defendants, appealed an order denying their motion to intervene in the State’s enforcement action brought against defendants. The Vermont Supreme Court affirmed because the motion to intervene was untimely. View "Vermont, et al. v. Quiros, et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-investors appealed the dismissal of their claims against the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD) and current and former state employees arising from the operation of a federally licensed regional center in the United States Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) EB-5 program. USCIS designated ACCD as a regional center in 1997, and ACCD began operating the Vermont Regional Center (VRC). In 2006, the VRC partnered with a series of projects led by Ariel Quiros and William Stenger (referred to as the “Jay Peak Projects”). ACCD entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Jay Peak Projects for each project. Employees of ACCD, including James Candido and Brent Raymond, both former executive directors of the VRC, and John Kessler, general counsel for ACCD, traveled with Jay Peak representatives to EB-5 tradeshows, at which they would share a table and jointly solicit investors and promote the Projects. ACCD employees represented to prospective investors, including plaintiffs, that the added protections of state approval and oversight made the Jay Peak Projects a particularly sound investment. However, unbeknownst to the investors, but known to VRC officials, no such state oversight by the VRC existed. In 2014, about twenty investors, including plaintiff Antony Sutton, sent complaints to Brent Raymond alleging that the Jay Peak Projects was misappropriating investor funds. In April 2016, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed a lawsuit alleging securities fraud, wire fraud, and mail fraud against the Jay Peak Projects developers, Ariel Quiros and William Stenger. The Vermont Department of Financial Regulation also filed suit against Quiros and Stenger, alleging similar claims. On the basis of these and other allegations, plaintiffs, all foreign nationals who invested in the Jay Peak Projects, filed a multi-count claim against ACCD and several individual defendants. The trial court granted plaintiffs’ motion to amend their complaint for a third time to a Fourth Amended Complaint, and then dismissed all thirteen counts on various grounds. Plaintiffs appealed. The Vermont Supreme Court reversed dismissal of plaintiffs’ claims of negligence and negligent misrepresentation against ACCD, gross negligence against defendants Brent Raymond and James Candido, and breach of contract and the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing against ACCD. The Court affirmed dismissal of plaintiffs’ remaining claims. View "Sutton, et al. v. Vermont Regional Center, et al." on Justia Law