Justia Immigration Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
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Petitioner, a forty-seven-year-old native and citizen of Mexico, first entered the United States in 1991 and, most recently, in 1996 without inspection. The Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) initiated removal proceedings. Petitioner conceded removability and applied for asylum, withholding of removal, and relief under the Convention Against Torture (“CAT”), claiming past persecution and well-founded fear of future persecution and torture in Mexico because of his membership in two Particular Social Groups (“PSGs”), “Married Homosexual Men” and “Homosexual Men in Mexico.” More than five years later, after evidentiary hearings but before Petitioner applied to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for a U-visa, the Immigration Judge (“IJ”) denied Petitioner’s motion for a continuance to file a U-visa application. Then, in a lengthy Decision and Memorandum, the IJ denied his application for asylum, withholding of removal and CAT relief on the merits. The Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) dismissed Petitioner’s administrative appeal and denied his motion to reconsider. Petitioner petitioned for review of both BIA orders.   The Eighth Circuit denied the petitions. The court explained that under the deferential substantial evidence standard, evidence of “general, widespread discrimination” does not trump the BIA’s finding, based on specific facts in the administrative record, that Petitioner could avoid future persecution by reasonably relocating from his rural home town to another part of Mexico. The BIA pointed to Mexico City, where Petitioner’s husband is from and which is reported to have “taken the lead in . . . taking measures to protect the rights of the LGBT population.” View "Flavio Pacheco-Moran v. Merrick B. Garland" on Justia Law

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Petitioner petitions for review of the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) dismissal of his appeal. Petitioner is an auto mechanic from Guatemala. He testified that in February 2013, he took the bus to buy some tools. On the bus ride home, three men robbed him and the other passengers on the bus. He did not see the faces of two of the robbers. One of the men pressed a knife against Petitioner’s right side and took one of his cell phones and his wallet. The Attorney General initiated removal proceedings against Petitioner. He then applied for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture. To the Immigration Judge (“IJ”), Petitioner argued that he was persecuted for his “anti-gang” political opinion and for his membership in the particular social group of witnesses who cooperate with law enforcement. The IJ denied his application, concluding that Petitioner did not show that his proposed social group is cognizable. Petitioner appealed to the BIA, which adopted the IJ’s decision. Petitioner appealed the BIA’s decision.   The Eighth Circuit denied Petitioner’s petition for review. The court explained that it agrees with the BIA that Petitioner has not proven that his proposed social group is socially distinct. Further, neither the BIA nor the IJ applied a presumption against Petitioner’s asylum claim on the ground that private, not government, actors allegedly persecuted him. And even if they had, remand would be unnecessary because the court already concluded that Petitioner has not proven membership in a cognizable social group. View "Jaime Oxlaj v. Merrick Garland" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, a native and citizen of Mexico, petitions for review of an order of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) affirming the denial of his application for cancellation of removal. In his petition, Petitioner argued that the IJ erred as a matter of law in denying his application for cancellation of removal based on the IJ’s conclusion that the harm Petitioner’s children will suffer upon his removal is not “exceptional and extremely unusual.”   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court concluded that Petitioner’s argument is actually an “argument . . . that the [IJ] erred in failing to afford what he believes is sufficient weight to Petitioner’s step-son’s emotional hardship in rendering the hardship determination.” The court explained that a petitioner’s argument “that the [Board] applied the incorrect legal standard by failing to adequately consider certain factors” is actually a challenge to the Board’s discretionary determination that the court lacks jurisdiction to review. View "Artemio Garcia-Pascual v. Merrick B. Garland" on Justia Law

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After conceding that he was removable from the United States for entering the country without being admitted or paroled, Petitioner applied for asylum on the ground that gangs in his native Honduras had persecuted him in the past and that he feared persecution from them should he return there. An immigration judge and the Board of Immigration Appeals determined, as relevant, that any harm Petitioner had suffered bore no connection to his political opinions and denied his application. Petitioner for review of the agency's decision and his motion to reconsider that decision.   The Eighth Circuit denied Petitioner’s petitions. The court explained that the record here does not contain much evidence, if any, that Petitioner’s refusal to assist the gang, even one as powerful and politically influential as MS-13, was meant to reflect a political opinion or that the gang thought his refusal was due to a political opinion. Further, the court wrote that Petitioner’s contention that the IJ and BIA failed to examine the record adequately in reaching their conclusions is untenable. The IJ recounted the gang's interactions with Petitioner and concluded that he never expressed any political opinion or anti-corruption sentiment or that the gang imputed those things to him—conclusions that find ample support in the record. View "Hugo Aguilar Montecinos v. Merrick B. Garland" on Justia Law

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Petitioner petitions for review of an order of the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) denying his motion to reconsider the denial of an administrative closure of his removal proceedings. Petitioner moved for reconsideration, arguing an intervening BIA decision -- Matter of Cruz-Valdez -- granted administrative closure authority the BIA previously found lacking and instructed the Board to apply the administrative closure standard set out in Avetisyan. The BIA agreed   The Eighth Circuit denied Petitioner’s petition for review. The court held that the BIA did not abuse its broad discretion to deny motions to reconsider. As in Gonzalez-Vega, the court concluded it is “clear from the record that the [BIA] had the appropriate [Avetisyan] considerations in mind and committed no clear error of judgment in weighing them.” Petitioner argued the BIA did not analyze all the Avetisyan factors. But the court wrote it does not require the Board “to recite the considerations mechanically when applying them to the facts.” The BIA announced its decision in terms sufficient to enable us to perceive that it has heard and thought and not merely reacted. Accordingly, the BIA did not abuse its broad discretion in denying the motion to reconsider View "Alejandro Islas-Saldana v. Merrick B. 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 citizen of El Salvador, petitions the court for review of the denial of his application for withholding of removal under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and reversal of withholding of removal under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). Petitioner has serious cognitive impairments, and while living in El Salvador he was recruited by gang members who attacked and threatened him when he refused to join.   The Eighth Circuit denied in part and granted in part. The court explained that it would have had jurisdiction to review Petitioner’s argument that the IJ applied an incorrect legal standard for determining the nexus between past persecution and any protected characteristics. But Petitioner waived this argument by raising it for the first time in his petition for review, not on appeal to the BIA.   However, the court held that the BIA did not provide sufficient justification for reversal, failing to identify reasons grounded in the record that are sufficient to satisfy a reasonable mind that the IJ clearly erred in its factual findings. The government urges affirmance, pointing to the thoroughness of the BIA’s decision and its extensive citations to the administrative record. But these features of the BIA’s decision do not establish that substantial evidence in the record supports the BIA’s decision here. Accordingly, the court granted the petition for review with respect to Petitioner’s application for withholding under the CAT. View "Gustavo Alvarez-Gomez v. Merrick Garland" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, a 31-year-old man, alleged to be a native and citizen of Honduras present in the United States without being lawfully admitted. Petitioner petitioned for review of an order of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) upholding the decision of an immigration judge (IJ) that found Petitioner removable and denied his application for deferral of removal under the Convention Against Torture (CAT).   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that it is well established that “traditional rules of evidence do not apply in immigration proceedings, except to the extent that due process is implicated. To satisfy due process in a removal proceeding, “evidence must be probative and its admission must be fundamentally fair.” Here, the evidence submitted by DHS meets this standard. While some of the evidence includes undeniable inconsistencies, it is all probative of Petitioner’s alienage. And there is no indication that its admission was fundamentally unfair. View "Eduardo Escobar v. Merrick B. Garland" on Justia Law

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The Anoka County Jail referred every detainee born outside the United States, including Plaintiff, to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The district court determined that this policy violates the Equal Protection Clause, and a jury awarded her $30,000 on a false-imprisonment theory.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the district court’s conclusion was correct: Anoka County’s policy is a classic example of national-origin discrimination. On its face, it treats people differently depending on where they were born. Those born abroad must wait anywhere from 20 minutes to 6 hours longer while deputies consult ICE. For those born in the United States, by contrast, there is no call and release is immediate. The court explained that it is also significant that Anoka County had national-origin-neutral alternatives at its disposal. The failure to consider these alternatives provides further evidence that it did not adopt a narrowly tailored policy. View "Myriam Parada v. Anoka County" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, a native and citizen of Guatemala, applied for cancellation of removal pursuant to 8 U.S.C. Section 1229b(b)(1). He has three children, who were 19, 10, and 5 years old at the time of the merits hearing in April 2017. The immigration judge denied Petitioner’s application. The Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) dismissed his appeal, and Petitioner timely petitioned for review of the BIA’s decision.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that Petitioner failed to provide authority allowing the court to direct the BIA to implement a new analytical standard for exceptional and extremely unusual hardship. To the extent Petitioner claims the BIA misapplied the applicable hardship standard—a question of law which the court may review—his claim is without merit. Further, the court wrote that the BIA’s discretionary conclusion that the hardship to the children is not substantially beyond that typically caused by an alien’s removal “is precisely the discretionary determination that Congress shielded from our review.” View "Hector Gonzalez-Rivas v. Merrick B. Garland" on Justia Law