Justia Immigration Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
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Petitioner petitions for review of a decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals denying his application for relief from removal to Iraq. The Eighth Circuit concluded that there is no basis to set aside the decision of the Board, and denied the petition for review.Petitioner first challenges the Board’s conclusion that he is removable under 8 U.S.C. Section 1227(a)(2)(E)(i) as an alien convicted of a crime of child abuse. Congress did not define “crime of child abuse,” but the Board has defined the term in a series of precedential decisions, and Petitioner does not challenge the agency’s definition. The court explained that under the categorical approach the court considers whether the elements of the offense necessarily fit within the Board’s generic definition. The court wrote that it does not examine the specific facts of Petitioner’s case, but instead presumes that his conviction rested on the least of the acts criminalized by the Nebraska statute. Moncrieffe v. Holder, 569 U.S. 184 (2013).Further, the court held that the Board reasonably concluded that the lesser charge did not diminish the gravity of the crime to the point where an offense involving serious bodily injury to a six-month-old was not particularly serious. The Board did not abuse its discretion in concluding that Petitioner was convicted of a particularly serious crime. Moreover, the court wrote that to the extent that Petitioner also challenges the Board’s weighing of the evidence in affirming the IJ’s decision, this court lacks jurisdiction to review the Board’s discretionary determination. View "Raad Al-Masaudi v. Merrick Garland" on Justia Law

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Petitioner a citizen and native of Eritrea, petitions for review of an order of the Board of Immigration Appeals denying relief under the Convention Against Torture. An immigration judge granted Petitioner deferral of removal under the Convention, but the Board reversed that finding on administrative appeal, and Petitioner was ordered removed to Eritrea.   The Eighth Circuit denied the petition. On appeal, Petitioner argues that the agency impermissibly concluded that his testimony was not credible. The court held that the credibility finding here was supported by substantial evidence, explaining that the immigration judge reasonably concluded that Petitioner’s failure to mention significant facts about alleged imprisonment and torture to the asylum officer undermined the credibility of his later claim at the immigration hearing.   Petitioner also contends that the absence of a Kunama interpreter at the hearing in immigration court denied him due process. The IJ here took a number of steps to ensure that Petitioner could participate adequately in the hearing. After the immigration court was unable to secure an interpreter in Petitioner’s preferred language, the court arranged the next best option with a Tigrinya interpreter.   Finally, the court upheld the Board’s conclusion that the evidence was insufficient as a matter of law to support the IJ’s finding that Petitioner likely would be tortured. The court explained that the Board adequately explained that anecdotal reports of imprisonment of returnees from Sudan, and reports of torture at the prison, are not sufficient to support a finding that Petitioner, in particular, is likely to be imprisoned and tortured if returned to Eritrea. View "Nani Keta v. Merrick Garland" on Justia Law

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Petitioner entered the United States as a refugee in New York City, New York when he was 16 years old. His status was subsequently adjusted to lawful permanent resident on June 26, 1999. Petitioner’s parents became naturalized citizens in 2003 and 2006 but Petitioner’s application was denied due to a returned check for the processing fees. The IJ issued her decision denying Petitioner’s application for asylum on the grounds that he failed to demonstrate a well-founded fear of persecution based on religion or clan membership. The IJ reasoned that while Petitioner had expressed a subjectively genuine fear of persecution based on the posting of the music video, he had failed to demonstrate his fear was objectively reasonable. Petitioner petitions for review of the order of the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) dismissing his appeal.The Eighth Circuit denied his petition. The court explained that when considering Petitioner’s claims, “we lack jurisdiction to review factual findings and may only review constitutional claims or questions of law.” Petitioner has presented no cognizable basis that would prohibit the BIA from remanding for the development of the record on an issue that the record shows was not plainly argued or developed. While Petitioner asserted generally that he was threatened by al-Shabaab and Muslim families because of the music video, he never explicitly claimed that he was being threatened because he was Muslim. Collateral estoppel is inapplicable because all decisions at issue were made at different stages of the same action. View "Omar Osman Mohamed v. Merrick B. Garland" on Justia Law

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Defendant believes that the statute criminalizing reentry into this country after removal violates his equal-protection rights. See 8 U.S.C. Section 1326(a), (b). He did not raise this issue before the district court. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling and denied the pending motion for judicial notice.   The court explained that even constitutional arguments can be forfeited. Forfeiture occurs when a party has an argument available but fails to assert it in time. The court wrote that failure to raise an equal-protection challenge before the district court is a classic example of forfeiture. During the six months before he pleaded guilty, Defendant filed more than a dozen motions raising all sorts of issues, but not one of them questioned the constitutionality of the illegal-reentry statute or mentioned equal protection. Had he done so, the district court would have had an opportunity to potentially correct or avoid the alleged] mistake in the first place.   The court explained that under these circumstances, Defendant’s constitutional argument receives, at most, plain-error review. Here, to succeed, Defendant’ had to show, among other things, that there was a clear or obvious error under current law. In this case, there is one district court case on his side, see Carillo-Lopez, 555 F. Supp. 3d at 1001, but at most it shows that the issue is subject to reasonable dispute. The court explained that picking one side of a reasonable dispute cannot be clearly or obviously wrong. View "United States v. Salvador Nunez-Hernandez" on Justia Law

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The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) denied Petitioner’s Form N-400, Application for Naturalization because it determined that Petitioner was no longer a lawful permanent resident following the denial of his Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence. Petitioner sought de novo review of the denial of his N-400 pursuant to 8 U.S.C. Section 1421(c), requesting that the district court direct USCIS to grant his N-400. The district court dismissed Petitioner’s petition without prejudice, finding that it lacked authority to direct USCIS to grant his N-400 and, alternatively, that his petition failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.The Eighth Circuit affirmed, concluding that the district court did not err in finding that Section 1429 does not limit its jurisdiction to review Petitioner’s Section 1421(c) claim, nor does it limit the court’s jurisdiction over this appeal. The court further wrote that it joins its sister circuits in holding that the pendency of removal proceedings prevents a district court from directing the Attorney General to naturalize an alien due to the limits imposed on the Attorney General’s authority to consider applications for naturalization by Section 1429. Thus because Section 1429 precludes the district court from granting effective relief in this case, the court found that Petitioner’s Section 1421(c) petition is moot.Finally, the court concluded that the district court did not commit a manifest error in stating that Petitioner could reassert a petition for review should removal proceedings be terminated in his favor and did not abuse its discretion in denying his Rule 59(e) motion. View "Hafils Akpovi v. David Douglas" on Justia Law

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An Immigration Judge (IJ) denied Petitioner's adjustment of status and waiver of inadmissibility, finding that his extensive criminal history since arriving in the United States made him a “violent and dangerous” individual and that his Minnesota domestic assault conviction was an aggravated felony “crime of violence.” 8 U.S.C. Sections 1159(a), (c), 1182(a)(2)(A)(i)(I). The IJ further ruled that this conviction made Petitioner statutorily ineligible for asylum and withholding of removal. 8 U.S.C. Sections 1158(b)(2)(A)(ii), 1231(b)(3)(B)(ii). On appeal, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) upheld these rulings.   The BIA ordered Petitioner removed to South Sudan. Petitioner petitioned for judicial review of the BIA’s decision, limiting the petition to the denial of CAT relief. The Eighth Circuit denied the petition for review. The court concluded that the BIA adequately explained why it rejected the IJ’s likelihood-of-torture finding and identified reasons grounded in the record sufficient to support this clear error determination. The BIA explained why the IJ’s findings failed to establish Petitioner was at personal risk of being tortured in South Sudan.   Petitioner argued the BIA failed to consider the risk of torture in the aggregate, instead focusing on isolated and incomplete portions of the evidence. However, the court wrote that the BIA expressly stated that the IJ’s ultimate finding of the likelihood of torture “is not supported by the record.” Although it did not individually address all evidence in the record or every IJ finding, its opinion demonstrates that it considered the record as a whole and “accounted for all of the asserted risks in concluding that the immigration judge clearly erred.” View "Chuor Chuor v. Merrick B. Garland" on Justia Law

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An immigration judge (IJ) concluded that Gutierrez-Vargas was not eligible for asylum or withholding of removal because his conviction for dismembering a human body constituted a particularly serious crime. The IJ further concluded that he was not eligible for deferral of removal because he failed to demonstrate that it was more likely than not that he would be tortured if returned to Mexico. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) affirmed that decision.   Petitioner petitioned for review of the BIA denial of his applications for asylum, withholding of removal, and deferral of removal. He argued that the conduct underlying his conviction did not constitute a “particularly serious crime” and that the IJ abused his discretion in determining that Petitioner did not qualify for deferral of removal under CAT. The court concluded that the IJ and the BIA applied the correct legal framework in determining that Petitioner’s conviction constituted a particularly serious crime. The IJ noted the elements of the offense, Petitioner’s role in dismembering and concealing the victim’s body, his “lengthy prison sentence,” and the state courts’ characterization of Petitioner’s actions.   Further, the court explained that although an applicant’s credible testimony “may be sufficient to sustain the burden of proof without corroboration,” 8 C.F.R. Section 1208.16(c)(2) (emphasis added), the IJ found that Petitioner’s testimony, even taken as true, did not satisfy that burden. Thus, Petitioner has failed to demonstrate any abuse of discretion in that ruling. View "Salvador Gutierrez-Vargas v. Merrick B. 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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Petitioner was ordered removed to China after he was convicted of aiding and abetting marriage fraud in order to evade immigration laws and procure his admission to the United States, see 8 U.S.C. Sections 1227(a)(1)(G)(ii), 1325(c), and an immigration judge (IJ) denied his applications for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT).   The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) concluded Petitioner’s motion was untimely and numerically barred, and he was not excused from these bars because he failed to show a material change in country conditions. The BIA also concluded Petitioner failed to show prima facie eligibility for relief. Finally, it declined to exercise its discretion to grant reopening sua sponte.   The Eighth Circuit denied the petition and vacated Petitioner’s stay of removal. The court concluded that the BIA did not abuse its discretion in denying Petitioner’s motion to reopen based on his failure to demonstrate prima facie eligibility for relief. Although Petitioner argued he was not attempting to reassert or relitigate his prior claim, he specifically included the alleged 2005 detention in both his new application and personal statement, and he continued to assert entitlement to relief based on underground Christian churches. The IJ therefore rationally concluded Petitioner’s new claim lacked factual independence. Further, Petitioner proffered no evidence—new or otherwise—to corroborate the alleged 2005 detention, interrogation, and beating. View "Caimin Li v. Merrick B. Garland" on Justia Law

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Petitioner was ordered removed and sought relief under the Convention Against Torture. Petitioner claimed he had a well-founded fear of persecution based on his membership in two social groups, his father’s immediate family and “young Guatemalan men who refuse to cooperate with gang members.” The Immigration Judge denied Petitioner relief and the Board of Immigration Appeals.The Eighth Circuit denied Petitioner's petition for relief. Petitioner's main claim was that the group his father belonged to which subjected him to likely persecution was not a "cognizable social group" at the time the Immigration Judge and Board of Immigration Appeals issued their opinions. However, subsequently, the group gained recognition.The Eighth Circuit determined that, notwithstanding any issues related to the group's recognition, Petitioner's application failed because he failed to establish a nexus between the persecution he allegedly suffered and either of his proposed social groups. Additionally, substantial evidence supports the determination that TojinPetitioner did not suffer past persecution. View "Diego Tojin-Tiu v. Merrick Garland" on Justia Law