Justia Immigration Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
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In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reviewed an order from the Board of Immigration Appeals which denied asylum and withholding of removal to three petitioners from El Salvador. The petitioners claimed they were threatened and harmed by local MS-13 gang members because a relative ended her relationship with the gang’s leader, and they feared further harm if returned to El Salvador.The petitioners challenged the Immigration Judge's (IJ) credibility determination, arguing that the IJ’s mixed credibility finding was neither permissible nor explicit as required by law. The court disagreed, finding that the IJ explicitly stated that she made a mixed finding on credibility, which is permissible under the law. The court further clarified that an IJ may make a partial or mixed adverse credibility determination so long as substantial evidence supports it.The petitioners also argued that the Board's decision was unsupported by substantial evidence because the Board concluded that the petitioners were targeted for pecuniary reasons, rather than due to their familial relationship. The court disagreed, finding that substantial evidence supported the Board's conclusion that the harms suffered by the petitioners were motivated by pecuniary gain rather than familial ties. The court therefore denied the petition for review. View "Ayala-Osegueda v. Garland" on Justia Law

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In the case before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, the petitioner, Jose Lince Lopez-Benitez, a native of El Salvador, sought review of the Board of Immigration Appeals’ decision which upheld an Immigration Judge's denial of his asylum request, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). Lopez had entered the United States illegally in 2013 and was subjected to extortion by the gang MS-13 in El Salvador, but he had never been physically harmed. He argued that his persecution was due to his membership in two particular social groups: the family of his father, who was legally residing in the U.S., and "Salvadoran males without male protection."The Court denied Lopez's petition, finding that he had failed to demonstrate a central reason for his persecution was his membership in a protected social group, which is a requirement for asylum or withholding of removal. The Court highlighted that while Lopez testified once that his father's presence in the U.S. was the reason why MS-13 targeted him, he provided no evidence to support this claim. Moreover, no other members of his father's family in El Salvador were targeted by MS-13. The Court concluded that the evidence most supported a finding that the only central reason that Lopez was targeted was because MS-13 extorted indiscriminately.Additionally, the Court found that Lopez had forfeited his CAT claim by not adequately raising it in his brief to the Board, meaning he had failed to exhaust administrative remedies for this claim, thus barring the Court from reviewing it. View "Lopez-Benitez v. Garland" on Justia Law

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In this case, residents of the Waples Mobile Home Park in Fairfax, Virginia, challenged the park's policy that required all adult tenants to provide proof of their legal status in the United States in order to renew their leases. The plaintiffs, four Latino families, argued that this policy violated the Fair Housing Act (FHA) because it disproportionately ousted Latinos from the park. The district court initially granted summary judgment in favor of the park, reasoning that the policy was necessary to avoid criminal liability under a federal statute prohibiting the harboring of undocumented immigrants.However, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's judgment. The court of appeals found that the district court had misunderstood the federal anti-harboring statute. The court of appeals noted that the statute requires more than simply entering into a lease agreement with an undocumented immigrant to be in violation. Rather, a person must knowingly or recklessly conceal, harbor, or shield undocumented immigrants from detection. The court of appeals concluded that the park's policy of verifying tenants' legal status did not serve the park's stated interest of avoiding liability under the anti-harboring statute. Consequently, the park had not met its burden at the second step of the three-step burden-shifting framework established for disparate-impact claims under the FHA. As such, the court of appeals reversed the grant of summary judgment for the park and remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings. View "Reyes v. Waples Mobile Home Park Limited Partnership" on Justia Law

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In a case brought before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, residents of the Waples Mobile Home Park in Fairfax, Virginia, challenged the Park's policy requiring all adult tenants to provide proof of their legal status in the United States in order to renew their leases. The plaintiffs, noncitizen Latino families, argued that this policy disproportionately ousted Latinos from the Park and therefore violated the Fair Housing Act (FHA). The district court initially granted summary judgment in favor of the Park, reasoning that the policy was necessary to avoid criminal liability under a federal statute prohibiting the harboring of undocumented immigrants.On appeal, the Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's decision. The court determined that the anti-harboring statute did not plausibly put the Park at risk for prosecution simply for leasing to families with undocumented immigrants. Furthermore, the court found that the Park's policy did not serve a valid interest in any realistic way to avoid liability under the anti-harboring statute. Therefore, the Park did not meet its burden at the second step of the three-step burden-shifting framework established for disparate-impact claims in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc. Given these findings, the Court of Appeals did not need to reach the third step to determine whether a less discriminatory alternative was available. As such, the court reversed the grant of summary judgment for the Park and remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings. View "Reyes v. Waples Mobile Home Park Limited Partnership" on Justia Law

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The court case involves defendants Juan Alberto Ortiz-Orellana and Minor Perez-Chach, who were convicted under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and the Violent Crimes in Aid of Racketeering statute (VICAR). Ortiz and Perez were part of a gang known as MS-13 and were separately charged with murders related to their involvement in the gang in Maryland. Ortiz was also convicted of VICAR conspiracy to commit murder, discharging a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, and murder resulting from the same crime. Perez, on the other hand, was also convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition, and an alien in possession of a firearm and ammunition. Both defendants appealed their convictions and sentences.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held that the government seizure of historical cell site location information (CSLI) without a warrant did not violate the defendants' Fourth Amendment rights due to the good faith exception. The court also upheld the use of summary exhibits and denied the defendants' claim that their sentences were substantially unreasonable. The court agreed with Ortiz that his firearm convictions must be vacated because the underlying offenses for each VICAR count could not qualify as a "crime of violence" after a recent ruling. The court also rejected Ortiz's claim that his RICO and VICAR convictions violated the Double Jeopardy Clause. As a result, the court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded the case for resentencing on certain counts. View "US v. Ortiz-Orellana" on Justia Law

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In a case before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, a foreign service officer and a non-citizen were convicted of conspiring to fraudulently obtain U.S. citizenship for the non-citizen and making false statements in the process. The defendants, Laura Anne Gallagher and Andrey Nikolayevich Kalugin, were married in 2015. They were accused of conspiring to achieve naturalization and proof of citizenship for Kalugin by making false statements and submitting fraudulent documents. The jury found them guilty on all counts. On appeal, the court concluded that the evidence was sufficient to support each defendant’s convictions. However, it found that the jury was allowed to consider a legally inadequate theory on one count and an erroneous evidentiary ruling prevented the defendants from offering certain evidence on the remaining two counts. As a result, the court vacated the convictions and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "US v. Gallagher" on Justia Law

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After Petitioner illegally reentered the United States, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reinstated the removal order previously entered against him. Petitioner expressed fear of returning to his native country and was placed in withholding only proceedings. The immigration judge and the Board of Immigration Appeals denied relief, and Petitioner petitioned the court for review within 30 days of the Board’s decision.   The Fourth Circuit dismissed the petition. The court held that the INA deprives the court of jurisdiction to resolve Petitioner’s petition for judicial review. The court wrote that Petitioner did not file his petition within 30 days of any final order of removal, and precedent dictates that the statutory filing deadline is jurisdictional. Further, the court noted that the pendency of his withholding-only proceedings did not extend his time to file. So his petition for review was untimely. View "Jose Martinez v. Merrick Garland" on Justia Law

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On July 6, 2023, the Fourth Circuit granted Petitioner's petition for review, reversed the agency’s denial of asylum and withholding of removal, and remanded with instructions to grant Petitioner's application. The Attorney General filed a petition for panel hearing, claiming that the Immigration and Nationality Act and implementing regulations require that the Attorney General make a discretionary judgment as to whether asylum should be granted, even where a noncitizen has met the statutory requirements.The Fourth Circuit agreed. The power to grant asylum is vested solely in the hands of the Attorney General and, even if a noncitizen is otherwise eligible, the Attorney General is empowered by statute to deny relief. While discretionary denials of asylum are exceedingly rare Petitioner's claim that there are no grounds to deny asylum as a matter of discretion must first be considered by the Attorney General. View "Shaker Ullah v. Merrick Garland" on Justia Law

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\Petitioner, a native and citizen of Mexico, petition for review of a final order of removal entered by the Board of Immigration Appeals. The Board determined that Petitioner was ineligible for cancellation of removal because his prior conviction for receipt of stolen property was a crime involving moral turpitude. The Board also held that the immigration judge (IJ) provided Petitioner with legally adequate notice of the conditions applicable to his voluntary departure.   The Fourth Circuit affirmed the Board’s holding that Petitioner’s conviction for receipt of stolen property rendered him ineligible for cancellation of removal. However, the Board erred in concluding that the IJ was not required to advise Petitioner of the bond requirement before granting voluntary departure. Accordingly, the court denied the petition with respect to the cancellation of removal but remanded for the Board to consider Petitioner’s request for voluntary departure. The court explained that the Board did not address whether an alien must show he was prejudiced by the IJ’s delay in providing the required advisals or whether Petitioner had made such a showing. The court therefore granted the petition in part and remanded for the Board to consider Petitioner’s request for remand to the IJ for a new period of voluntary departure with the required advisal. View "Cesar Solis-Flores v. Merrick Garland" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, a native and citizen of Honduras, petitions for review of an order of the Board of Immigration Appeals (Board) upholding the immigration judge’s (IJ’s) denial of his application for deferral of removal under the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) and ordering him removed to Honduras. As a former member of the MS-13 gang, Petitioner fears torture by gangs and police in Honduras. The IJ concluded that Ponce-Flores’s risk of torture was substantial, but he had not shown that a government official would more likely than not inflict or acquiesce in it.   The Fourth Circuit denied the petition. The court explained that Petitioner has failed to show that the IJ arbitrarily ignored relevant evidence or otherwise abused her discretion. The court explained that it requires agency adjudicators to demonstrate that they “reviewed all [the applicant’s] evidence, understood it, and had a cogent, articulable basis for [their] determination that [his] evidence was insufficient.” Here, the court concluded that the IJ surpassed that standard. View "Jesus Ponce-Flores v. Merrick Garland" on Justia Law