Justia Immigration Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
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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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Plaintiff filed suit alleging that Immigration Services violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) in two ways: when it used a beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard rather than a preponderance-of-the-evidence standard to evaluate his I-130 petition for sponsorship of close relatives, and when it did not allow him to offer rebuttal evidence. In this case, plaintiff had been convicted of possession of child pornography, which put him outside the bounds of the visa-sponsorship program unless he could show that he posed no risk to his wife, the person he was trying to sponsor. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the action, holding that courts lack jurisdiction to review either the process or the outcome of the no-risk decision. Under the Adam Walsh Act, the USCIS has "sole and unreviewable discretion" to determine if citizens like plaintiff pose "no risk" to their foreign relatives. Therefore, the district court correctly held that the Adam Walsh Act prevented it from exercising jurisdiction over plaintiff's APA claim. View "Bourdon v. United States Department of Homeland Security" on Justia Law

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8 C.F.R. 1003.14 sets forth a claim processing rule as opposed to a jurisdictional rule. The Eleventh Circuit held that, even assuming petitioner's notice to appear (NTA) was deficient under the regulations, the agency properly exercised jurisdiction over his removal proceedings because section 1003.14 could not have imposed jurisdictional limitations. Therefore, the IJ and BIA properly exercised jurisdiction over petitioner's removal order based on the authority conferred upon them by 8 U.S.C. 1229(a)(1). Therefore, the court denied the petition for review as to petitioner's Pereira claim. To the extent petitioner argued that he was nonetheless entitled to a remand because his NTA violated the agency's claim-processing rules, the court dismissed this part of his petition for lack of jurisdiction because he failed to exhaust the claim before the agency. The court rejected petitioner's due process claim, holding that the agency's decision not to address petitioner's appeal absent DHS briefing did not render his appeal fundamentally unfair. However, the court held that the BIA's determination that any motive to harm petitioner based on his family status was at most incidental was not supported by substantial evidence, because it was abundantly clear that petitioner's family relationship was one central reason, if not the central reason, for the harm he experienced. Therefore, the court granted his petition for review, and remanded his asylum and withholding of removal claims. View "Perez-Sanchez v. U.S. Attorney General" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit granted the petition for review of the BIA's denial of petitioner's asylum, withholding of removal, and Convention Against Torture (CAT) claims. Petitioner alleged past persecution and a well-founded fear of future persecution, both individually and as a member of a group, based on his practice of Ahmadiyya Islam. The court held that the IJ ignored specific evidence that petitioner brought to its attention and the BIA ignored the same evidence on appeal. In this case, petitioner cited specific examples that supported his position, including Ahmadis' inability to openly practice their religion, to propagate their religion, to convene for religious gatherings, to perform a pilgrimage, to vote, to build mosques, and to pray in certain manners. View "Ali v. U.S. Attorney General" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit denied a petition for review of the BIA's decision holding petitioner inadmissible because he falsely represented himself as a citizen when applying for a Georgia driver's license. Petitioner argued that he simply checked the wrong box, and that citizenship did not affect the application. The court held that it did not have jurisdiction to review petitioner's claim because it was a factual matter regarding whether he checked the wrong box and thus lacked the requisite subjective intent to trigger the statute. The court also held that it did not have to defer to the Board's interpretation of Matter of Richmond, 26 I. & N. Dec. 779, 786–87 (BIA 2016), finding a materiality element in 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(6)(C)(ii)(I). Rather, the statute did not require that citizenship be material to the purpose or benefit sought. View "Patel v. U.S. Attorney General" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit granted in part a petition for panel rehearing, vacated the prior opinion in this case, and substituted the following opinion. Petitioner sought review of the BIA's decision affirming the IJ's order of removal. The court held that substantial evidence supported the BIA's finding that petitioner was convicted under Fla. Stat. 893.13(1)(a) (possession with intent to deliver), and not section 893.13(6)(a) (simple possession). Therefore, the court lacked jurisdiction under Immigration and Nationality Act section 242 to grant petitioner relief on this claim and dismissed the petition for review in part. The court held that DHS was not required to file a cross-appeal to advance its controlled substance argument on appeal to the BIA, and the BIA did not err in considering that argument. The court also held that Flunitrazepam is a controlled substance, and the BIA did not err in denying petitioner's motion for a remand to pursue a section 212(h) waiver. Accordingly, the court denied the petition in part. View "Bula Lopez v. U.S. Attorney General" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit denied a petition for review of the BIA's decision denying petitioner's application for asylum, withholding of removal, and humanitarian asylum. The court held that the IJ and BIA reasonably determined that petitioner failed to demonstrate that "Mexican citizens targeted by criminal groups because they have been in the United States and they have families in the United States" were viewed as a socially distinct group in Mexico and that the group was not defined with sufficient particularity. Even if the court were to hold that the agencies' decisions did not merit deference, the court would reach the same conclusion. Furthermore, petitioner failed to establish a nexus between the persecution suffered, the persecution she claims she will suffer, and any other statutorily protected grounds for asylum. View "Perez-Zenteno v. U.S. Attorney General" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit granted a petition for review of the BIA's dismissal of petitioner's appeal based on the ineffective assistance of counsel. Petitioner claimed that counsel misled her into accepting voluntary departure by telling her she would immediately be deported if she did not accept it. The court held that petitioner bore the burden of producing a transcript of the hearing and, because she did not produce a transcript, the court found that it could rely on the IJ's reconstruction of the record. However, in this case, the IJ's reconstruction may be incomplete and the court was unable to fully assess petitioner's voluntariness in regard to her acceptance of a voluntary departure. Therefore, the court remanded to the BIA to determine the full scope of that issue. View "Flores-Panameno v. U.S. Attorney General" on Justia Law

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A lawful permanent resident alien who has already been admitted to the United States -- who is not currently seeking admission or readmission -- can, for stop-time purposes, be rendered inadmissible by virtue of a qualifying criminal conviction. The Eleventh Circuit denied a petition for review of the BIA's decision that petitioner was barred from seeking cancellation of removal. The court held that the BIA correctly concluded that petitioner was ineligible for cancellation of removal because the stop-time rule -- triggered when he committed a crime involving moral turpitude in January 1996 -- ended his continuous residence a few months shy of the required seven-year period. View "Barton v. U.S. Attorney General" on Justia Law

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Meridor arrived in the U.S. about 25 years ago as a political refugee from Haiti and applied for political asylum. He withdrew his application after it lingered for many years. In 2013, DHS notified Meridor that he was subject to removal as a foreign national without a valid visa or passport, and because he had convictions for a crime of moral turpitude and controlled-substance offenses. Meridor applied for asylum and for withholding of removal. An IJ agreed that Meridor was removable and denied his requests for asylum and withholding of removal. Meridor moved for reconsideration, but before the IJ ruled, Meridor applied to USCIS for a U visa (available to certain crime victims). The IJ terminated his removal proceedings, and, acting as the Attorney General’s delegate, stated that she had jurisdiction over the waiver application. Before the IJ could issue a written opinion, USCIS denied Meridor’s applications for a U visa and waiver of inadmissibility. Three weeks later, the IJ granted the waiver, citing “extraordinary circumstances.” The BIA reversed the IJ’s decision, holding that only DHS can grant waivers of inadmissibility for U visa applications and that Meridor did not merit such a waiver. The Eleventh Circuit vacated. The plain language of 8 U.S.C. 1182(d)(3)(A) gives IJs authority to grant waivers of inadmissibility and the BIA committed legal error in reaching its alternative holding on the merits. View "Meridor v. United States Attorney General" on Justia Law