Justia Immigration Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
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Petitioner, a native and citizen of Mexico, seeks a review of the denial of his petition for cancellation of removal. The Board of Immigration Appeals determined that Petitioner was ineligible for cancellation of removal because he was convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude: identity theft under Virginia law, which explicitly includes “intent to defraud” as an element. Va. Code Ann. Section 18.2-186.3(A)(2). On appeal, Petitioner contends the statute could be—and in his case, was—applied to crimes that don’t involve moral turpitude.   The Fourth Circuit denied the petition for review. The court concluded that subsection (A)(2) of the Virginia identity-theft statute qualifies as a crime involving moral turpitude under 8 U.S.C. Section 1227(a)(2)(A)(ii), and that the Board didn’t abuse its discretion in deciding Petitioner’s case in a single-member opinion. The court explained that it found no abuse of discretion in the Board’s decision to assign this case to a single-member panel. The issue was not “complex, novel, or unusual”: It was squarely resolved by the Board’s precedent for crimes with “intent to defraud” as an element. The Board considered (and was unpersuaded) by the argument that Petitioner’s offense was “more akin to deception than fraud,” and the court agreed with its conclusion. Nor is there evidence that the relatively narrow issue of whether subsection (A)(2) of the Virginia statute involved moral turpitude is a “recurring” question before the Board. View "Jose Salazar v. Merrick Garland" on Justia Law

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Petitioner petitioned or review of the Board of Immigration Appeals’ final removal order under 8 U.S.C. Section 1252. The Board held that Petitioner, as the recipient of a K-1 nonimmigrant visa, couldn’t adjust status to that of a conditional permanent resident without an affidavit of support from her former husband, who originally petitioned for her K-1 visa.   The Fourth Circuit denied the petition, finding that the Board’s decision to be reasonable under Chevron, U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837 (1984). The court held that the Board didn’t act arbitrarily or capriciously by hewing to a regulatory provision that applies on its face, even if another (facially inapplicable) provision might have better protected Petitioner’s reliance interests.   Petitioner’s petition also seeks review of the Board’s refusal to reopen her removal proceedings so she could introduce a document entitled “Questions and Answers: USCIS— American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Meeting,” dated October 9, 2012. Petitioner suggested that this document supported her argument that subsection (f)(1) (and not (f)(2)) should apply to K-1 beneficiaries’ adjustment applications, such that a petitioner couldn’t withdraw a Form I-864 once the K-1 beneficiary has entered the United States. The document doesn’t render the Board’s decision unreasonable. At oral argument, both parties agreed that the document is ambiguous as to whether it truly reflected USCIS’s position in 2012. But even if it did, the Board’s later precedential decision in Petitioner’s case binds USCIS employees. View "Sothon Song v. Merrick Garland" on Justia Law

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The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) deported Petitioner, a permanent resident of the United States since he was six years old, because the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA or the Board) deemed his altercation with the police an aggravated felony. In 2018, the Supreme Court ruled that the type of offense Petitioner committed no longer qualified as an aggravated felony. Learning of that decision in 2019, Petitioner moved the BIA to reconsider its original removal order and to equitably toll the usual thirty-day deadline for filing such motions in view of the legal change. The BIA declined. It did not dispute that Petitioner is entitled to be readmitted into the country, but it rejected Petitioner’s request to toll the limitations period, believing him insufficiently diligent in discovering his rights.   The Fourth Circuit vacated the Board’s diligence determination, remanding to the BIA to consider the second prong of the equitable-tolling inquiry—whether the change in the law constituted an extraordinary circumstance—as well as the merits of Petitioner’s claim. The court explained that because the BIA determined Petitioner not diligent, it did not consider whether Johnson and Dimaya presented an extraordinary circumstance that would warrant equitable tolling. In previous cases, the BIA has held that Supreme Court decisions that significantly change the legal landscape meet this bar. Thus, the court remanded to the BIA to decide whether the legal changes in Johnson and Dimaya constitute extraordinary circumstances and whether, on the whole, Petitioner’s request to reconsider merits a favorable exercise of discretion. View "Damien Williams v. Merrick Garland" on Justia Law

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Petitioner and her minor daughter, natives and citizens of Guatemala, petition for review of the final order of the Board of Immigration Appeals dismissing their appeal from the immigration judge’s order denying Petitioner’s application for asylum and withholding of removal. Petitioners filed their petition for review with this Court one day after the deadline set by 8 U.S.C. Section 1252(b)(1). They contend that the Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 26(c) extends the filing period by three additional days because the Board served the order by mail.   The Fourth Circuit dismissed the petition concluding that Rule 26(c) does not apply to petitions for review governed by Section 1252(b)(1). The court explained that because Section 1252(b)(1) calculates the time to file a petition for review from “the date of the final order of removal,” and not from service of that order, Rule 26(c) does not apply. View "Ana Santos-De Jimenez v. Merrick Garland" on Justia Law

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Petitioner sought asylum and withholding of removal under the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”) after conceding removability from the United States during removal proceedings before an Immigration Judge (“IJ”). The IJ denied both forms of relief, and the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) affirmed and entered a final order of removal. In so holding the BIA found that Petitioner failed to show the necessary nexus between her asserted protected ground and the persecution she suffered.The Fourth Circuit affirmed. One necessary element for an applicant seeking asylum or withholding of removal is that an applicant’s claimed persecution occurred, or will occur, on account of a statutorily protected ground that applies to her. If an applicant fails to satisfy the nexus requirement, she cannot obtain asylum or withholding of removal. The Fourth Circuit held that Petitioner failed to establish the requisite nexus based on the facts presented. View "Maira Madrid-Montoya v. Merrick Garland" on Justia Law

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Petitioner a native of El Salvador, filed this petition for review of an order of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) denying her petition for asylum, withholding of removal, and relief under the U.N. Convention Against Torture (CAT). She contends chiefly that the BIA and immigration judge (IJ) erred in rejecting her claim of persecution on account of “membership in a particular social group”—a precondition for her asylum claim under 8 U.S.C. Section 1158(b).   The Fourth Circuit denied in part and dismissed in part. The court explained that it is unable to reverse the Board’s order on the basis of its treatment of Petitioner’s proposed social groups. Because her asylum claim does not prevail, her claim for withholding of removal does not either. The agency adjudicators correctly applied law and fact in denying Petitioner’s application, and the record before us does not compel a contrary conclusion. Further, because the Board rightly stated that Petitioner had not meaningfully presented her CAT claim, the court has no jurisdiction to evaluate arguments raised for the first time on review. View "Maria Morales v. Merrick Garland" on Justia Law

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Defendant a Mexican citizen who migrated to the United States illegally as a minor in 2006, was deported in 2011 following a four-minute removal hearing. During that hearing, the immigration judge neglected to advise Defendant about his eligibility for voluntary departure or inform him of his right to appeal. Then, in his written summary order, the immigration judge indicated that Defendant had waived his right to appeal. Upon discovering him in the country once again in 2018, the Government opted to arrest and charge him with illegal reentry. Defendant moved to dismiss his indictment, arguing that the 2011 deportation order underlying his Section 1326 charge was invalid.   The district court agreed, finding that the immigration judge’s failure to advise Defendant regarding his eligibility for voluntary departure rendered his 2011 removal fundamentally unfair. Defendant nevertheless maintains that the district court’s decision must be affirmed on an alternative basis: that the immigration judge’s denial of his right to appeal also prejudiced him. The Fourth Circuit agreed and affirmed the dismissal of Defendant’s indictment.   The court concluded that Defendant would have been granted voluntary departure on remand. The court rejected the Government’s contentions that Defendant would not have been eligible for voluntary departure. Further, the Government has waived any other arguments against that eligibility by failing to raise them before the court. Ultimately the court agreed with Defendant that, but for the denial of his appeal rights, he would not have been deported. Accordingly, the court concluded that his 2011 removal hearing was fundamentally unfair. View "US v. Bonifacio Sanchez" on Justia Law

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Petitioner appealed an order of the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) affirming the denial of his application for cancellation of removal. The Fourth Circuit granted Petitioner’s petition for review, vacated the order of removal, and remanded to the BIA for further proceedings. The court held that the BIA failed to address whether Petitioner’s case should be remanded to a new immigration judge (“IJ”) under Matter of Y-S-L-C-, 26 I. & N. Dec. 688 (BIA 2015).The court explained that while Petitioner’s s brief to the BIA makes clear that his primary focus was to persuade the BIA to reverse the IJ’s decision, the court noted that it also shows he presented an alternative argument seeking remand before a new IJ under Matter of Y-S-L-C-. Accordingly the court found that Petitioner sufficiently exhausted his claim that this case should be remanded to a new IJ under Matter of Y-S-L-C-.The court further found that the government’s analysis glosses over one key point: the BIA in Matter of Y-S-L-C- never definitively concluded that—or fully analyzed whether— the IJ’s actions constituted a due process violation. Therefore, the BIA’s decision not to state that the IJ’s conduct prejudiced the fifteen-year-old applicant supports Petitioner’s interpretation of the Matter of Y-S-L-C- holding as independent of a due process violation. View "Rodolfo Tinoco Acevedo v. Merrick Garland" on Justia Law

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Petitioners a twenty-three-year-old mother and her seven-year-old son, respectively, sought asylum in the United States after fleeing El Salvador following death threats and violence at the hands of the Mara 18 gang due to Petitioner’s Catholic religion.An immigration judge (IJ) found Petitioner’s testimony was credible and that one of the death threats she received had a nexus to her statutorily protected right to religion. However, the IJ then concluded that the death threat did not rise to the level of past persecution because the threat never came to fruition. It thus denied her application for asylum and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) affirmed that decision.The Fourth Circuit granted Petitioners’ petition for review of the BIA’s decision. The court explained that the IJ’s decision, which the BIA adopted, blatantly ignored our long line of cases establishing that the threat of death alone establishes past persecution. This was legal error, and therefore, an abuse of discretion. The court held has established she was subjected to past persecution in El Salvador. She is thereby entitled to the presumption of a well-founded fear of future persecution. View "Zoila Sorto-Guzman v. Merrick Garland" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, a Cuban alien, petitioned for review of the Board of Immigration Appeals decision denying his application for asylum, withholding of removal, and Convention Against Torture (“CAT”) protection. But the government first argued that the Fourth Circuit should not hear this case, as venue lies in the Fifth Circuit. Interpreting the venue statute, the Fourth Circuit found that venue is proper in the circuit court because the Immigration Judge (“IJ”) completed the proceedings in Virginia, which is within the court’s judicial circuit.   The court rejected Petitioner’s petition, explaining that it defers to the Immigration Judge’s factual findings because they are supported by substantial evidence. The court wrote that the IJ’s adverse credibility determination was supported by substantial evidence. The court explained even a minor inconsistency can support an adverse credibility finding. Here, the IJ noted that Petitioner’s credible-fear interview omitted several important police encounters, in November 2017, October 2018, and November 2018, which he later mentioned at the immigration hearing. The interviewer warned him to include everything by asking about any “other incidents that he wanted to tell anybody about.”   Further, the court explained that the IJ noted Petitioner presented no direct evidence that he would be tortured upon his return, and his testimony that he will be tortured upon his return is speculative. Thus, because the IJ’s opinion was sound, the BIA did not abuse its discretion by affirming it. View "Oscar Herrera-Alcala v. Merrick Garland" on Justia Law