Justia Immigration Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
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On rehearing en banc, the Fourth Circuit reversed the judgment and remanded with instructions to grant plaintiff's motion to set aside the agency's final action denying plaintiff special immigrant juvenile (SIJ) status. In this case, USCIS interpreted 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(27)(J) (i) to require a permanent custody order and thus denied plaintiff's SIJ application, dismissing his administrative appeal. The court held that the agency's rejection of plaintiff's SIJ provision -- that clause (i) requires a permanent custody order -- is entitled to no deference, defies the plain statutory language, and impermissibly intrudes into issues of state domestic relations law. Because the agency's interpretation of clause (i) was not in accordance with law, the court remanded to the agency to take another look at plaintiff's SIJ application. View "Perez v. Cuccinelli" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit denied a petition for review of the BIA's dismissal of petitioner's appeal of the IJ's denial of his application for asylum. The court held that the BIA's ruling, that petitioner's proposed social group -- merchants in the formal Honduran economy -- did not constitute a particular social group under the Immigration and Nationality Act, was not manifestly contrary to the law nor an abuse of discretion. View "Canales-Rivera v. Barr" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit granted a petition for review of the BIA's decision affirming the IJ's rulings determining that petitioner's testimony was not credible. The court held that the Baltimore IJ failed to give petitioner an opportunity to testify and weigh the relevance of that testimony in conjunction with the entire record. The court declined to address whether the adverse credibility determination and denials of petitioner's applications for withholding of removal and relief under the Convention Against Torture were erroneous. Accordingly, the court vacated the BIA's summary affirmance of the IJ's rulings and remanded for reconsideration of petitioner's asylum claim, which included affording her an opportunity to testify and appropriate consideration of that testimony as well as any factual determinations. View "Atemnkeng v. Barr" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit dismissed the petition for judicial review of the BIA's order denying petitioner's application for asylum. The court held that the BIA's July 9 remand order did not constitute a final order of removal within the meaning of 8 U.S.C. 1252, and thus the court lacked jurisdiction to consider the petition. In this case, the BIA remanded petitioner's case to the IJ for background checks, and thus the BIA order underlying the petition for judicial review was not a final order. View "Kouambo v. Barr" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff and his wife appealed the district court's denial of their complaint alleging that USCIS unlawfully rejected the Form I-130 petition for Alien Relative that plaintiff filed on behalf of his wife. The district court dismissed the complaint based on lack of jurisdiction. The Fourth Circuit held that the district court erred in dismissing the complaint for lack of jurisdiction, because the Administrative Procedure Act authorized plaintiff's claim and 8 U.S.C. 1252(a)(2)(B) did not strip the court of jurisdiction to determine whether I-130 petitions pending at the time the Adam Walsh Act amended 8 U.S.C. 1154 should be processed by USCIS under the former or amended version of the statute. However, the court affirmed the dismissal of the complaint and held that USCIS properly applied the Adam Walsh Act's amendments when adjudicating plaintiff's petition and nothing in the text of the amendments indicated that Congress did not intend for them to apply to pending I-130 petitions. In this case, the petition had been filed, but the agency had not yet approved or rejected it when the statutory amendments came into effect. Therefore, the court held that the amendments were not applied retroactively to a past decision or concerning past eligibility, but rather were applied to a then-pending decision regarding current eligibility for the requested relief. Finally, the court held that plaintiff's remaining arguments to the contrary lacked merit. View "Moore v. Frazier" 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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The Fourth Circuit granted a petition for review of the BIA's dismissal of petitioner's appeal in light of Matter of Castro-Tum, 27 I. & N. Dec. 271 (A.G. 2018). In Castro-Tum, the Attorney General concluded that IJs and the BIA do not have the general authority to administratively close cases. The court held that 8 C.F.R. 1003.10(b) and 1003.1(d)(1)(ii) unambiguously confer upon IJs and the BIA the general authority to administratively close cases. The court held that Castro-Tum was not entitled to Auer deference and, in the absence of such deference, the court applied Skidmore deference. In this case, the court explained that a court reviewing Castro-Tum for Skidmore deference would not be persuaded to adopt the agency's own interpretation of its regulation for substantially the same reasons it was not entitled to Auer deference: because it represents a stark departure, without notice, from long-used practice and thereby cannot be deemed consistent with earlier and later pronouncements. Therefore, the BIA's decision should be vacated and and remanded for further proceedings. View "Zuniga Romero v. Barr" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to dismiss the indictment. Defendant had pleaded guilty to illegally being in the United States after having been removed after a felony conviction. The district court held that defendant failed to establish that the removal was fundamentally unfair and denied his motion to dismiss. The court held that when an expedited removal is alleged to be an element in a criminal prosecution, the defendant in that prosecution must, as a matter of due process, be able to challenge the element if he did not have a prior opportunity to do so. Because the rules attendant to expedited removal preclude review of the removal order, the defendant in a 8 U.S.C. 1326 prosecution premised on an expedited removal order under 8 U.S.C. 1225(b)(1)(A)(i) must be given the opportunity in the section 1326 prosecution to challenge the validity of that order. Because section 1225(b)(1)(D) strips courts in section 1326 prosecutions from hearing a defendant's challenge to an expedited removal element, the court held that this jurisdiction-stripping provision is unconstitutional. On the merits, the court held that defendant did not sufficiently demonstrate a reasonable probability that the Attorney General would have allowed him to withdraw his application for admission under section 1225(a)(4), and thus he failed to show prejudice, as required to demonstrate that his removal was fundamentally unfair. View "United States v. Silva" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit held that it had jurisdiction over a petition for review of the IJ's determination that petitioner was removable, because petitioner had exhausted his administrative remedies. The court also held that petitioner's prior Virginia offense of participating in a criminal street gang was not categorically a crime involving moral turpitude. Therefore, petitioner's prior conviction could not be a basis for removing him. Accordingly, the court granted the petition for review, vacated the order of removal, and remanded with instructions. View "Rodriguez Cabrera v. Barr" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's ruling on defendant's motion to dismiss the indictment. The court held that the premise of defendant's argument -- – that the purported filing defect in his case deprived the immigration court of authority to enter a removal order, so that he may collaterally challenge that order in subsequent criminal proceedings -- was incorrect. Rather, there was no defect, because the applicable regulations did not require that the information identified by defendant, a date and time for a subsequent removal hearing, be included in the "notice to appear" that was filed with an immigration court to initiate the proceedings. View "United States v. Cortez" on Justia Law