Justia Immigration Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
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In a case before the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Victor Rodriguez-Hernandez, a native and citizen of Mexico, was seeking review of a decision by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). The BIA had dismissed his appeal of the denial of his applications for cancellation of removal, asylum, withholding of removal, and relief under the Convention Against Torture (CAT) by an Immigration Judge (IJ). The court determined that Rodriguez-Hernandez's harassment conviction, under the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) § 9A.46.020(1), was categorically a crime of violence aggravated felony. This made him ineligible for discretionary relief from removal. The court also found that substantial evidence supported the denial of relief under the CAT. The court concluded that Rodriguez-Hernandez did not establish that it was more likely than not that he would be tortured with the consent or acquiescence of a public official. The court therefore denied his petition for review. View "RODRIGUEZ-HERNANDEZ V. GARLAND" on Justia Law

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In the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the defendant, William Klensch, appealed his sentence after pleading guilty to one count of transportation of an illegal alien. Klensch argued that he was entitled to a minor-role reduction in his sentencing, contending that he had no knowledge of the full smuggling operation and was paid only a small sum for his part. The district court denied this reduction because Klensch was the one physically transporting the individuals. However, the appellate court ruled that the district court did not apply the correct legal standard in denying a minor-role reduction, as the court did not conduct a proper comparative analysis of Klensch’s conduct. The court noted that the district court's explanation did not indicate it considered the factors required for a minor-role reduction. As such, the appellate court vacated Klensch’s sentence and remanded for resentencing in regard to the minor-role reduction.Additionally, Klensch argued that the district court erred by imposing a dangerous-weapons enhancement because he did not possess the stun gun in his car in connection with his illegal smuggling activity. The appellate court rejected this argument, as Klensch acknowledged having the stun gun within his reach while transporting the two men. The court ruled that even if the district court applied an incorrect standard of proof by not requiring the Government to prove a nexus to the stun gun, this error was harmless. As such, the district court's imposition of the dangerous-weapons enhancement was affirmed. View "USA V. KLENSCH" on Justia Law

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A group of individuals from India, who have been lawfully working in the United States for years and waiting in line for more than a decade for their immigrant visas, sued the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and U.S. Department of State. They sought to compel the USCIS to act on their applications for adjustment of status to become lawful permanent residents. However, the USCIS had not processed their applications because the State Department revised its forecast and concluded that it had hit the visa cap for the year. The plaintiffs argued that the USCIS and the State Department were improperly interpreting the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) by requiring an immigrant visa to be available at the time of adjudication rather than at the time of filing the application.The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district courts' denials of injunctive relief. The court concluded that the plaintiffs were unlikely to succeed on the merits of their claims. The court found that the government's interpretation of the INA, requiring an immigrant visa to be available before the government can adjudicate an application for adjustment of status, was consistent with the INA and reasonably filled in a procedural detail left open by Congress. The court also noted that the regulation was not in conflict with the statutory text and was left in the government's discretion by Congress. The court further opined that the plaintiffs' proposed rule could result in inefficiency and further delay. View "JIGAR BABARIA, ET AL V. ANTONY BLINKEN, ET AL" on Justia Law

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Petitioner is a native and citizen of Mexico. He was admitted to the United States as a lawful permanent resident in 2002. But in 2019, a jury convicted him of possessing methamphetamine, a controlled substance, with intent to deliver, in violation of Idaho Code section 37-2732(a)(1)(A). The Department of Homeland Security initiated removal proceedings in 2021, charging that Petitioner is removable (1) under 8 U.S.C. Section 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii), for having been convicted of an aggravated felony related to illicit trafficking in a controlled substance, and (2) under 8 U.S.C. Section 1227(a)(2)(B)(i), for having been convicted of violating a state law relating to a controlled substance. Petitioner filed a motion to terminate proceedings, asserting that his conviction is neither for an aggravated felony nor for a crime related to a controlled substance. The immigration judge disagreed and ordered Petitioner’s removal. The Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) dismissed Petitioner’s appeal. Petitioner sought review of the final order of removal.   The Ninth Circuit denied Petitioner’s petition. Applying the modified categorical approach, the panel concluded that Petitioner’s conviction record clearly documents that his conviction involved methamphetamine, a controlled substance under federal and Idaho law. The panel next concluded that the required mental state under federal and Idaho law—knowledge—is the same in all relevant respects: the defendant either must know what the substance is (even if the defendant does not know that it is controlled) or must know that the substance is illegal (even if the defendant does not know what the substance is). View "TELLEZ-RAMIREZ V. GARLAND" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit denied a petition for panel rehearing, and denied a petition for rehearing en banc, in a case in which the panel: (1) reversed a judgment of the district court granting Petitioner's habeas petition challenging his continued immigration detention after an initial bond hearing; and (2) held that due process does not require a second bond hearing.Judge Paez issued a statement regarding the court's denial. Judge Paez joined by Judges Murguia, Wardlaw, Gould, Berzon, Koh, Sung, Sanchez, H.A. Thomas, Mendoza, and Desai, wrote that the panel opinion conflicts with Singh v. Holder, 638 F.3d 1196 (9th Cir. 2011). View "AROLDO RODRIGUEZ DIAZ V. MERRICK GARLAND, ET AL" on Justia Law

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Petitioner has been a lawful permanent resident (LPR) of the United States since 2003. Since that time, he has been convicted of various crimes, including theft, criminal trespass, a DUI, and, as relevant here, possession of heroin in violation of Oregon law. After he received a notice to appear (NTA) initiating removal proceedings, Petitioner applied for cancellation of removal. The immigration judge (IJ) denied the petition and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) dismissed Petitioner’s appeal.   The Ninth Circuit denied Petitioner’s petition for review. The court held that the agency did not err in concluding that the stop-time rule set forth in 8 U.S.C. Section 1229b(d)(1)(B), which terminates accrual of the requisite seven years of continuous physical presence, is calculated from the date a petitioner committed the criminal offense that rendered him removable, rather than the date he was convicted. A lawful permanent resident becomes removable once he is convicted of a qualifying offense, and if the offense is committed within seven years of being admitted into the United States, the Attorney General lacks discretion to cancel removal. Here, Petitioner committed the offense a few months shy of satisfying the seven-year continuous residence requirement, but the conviction became final outside the statutory seven-year period. The panel held that the agency did not err in deciding that the stop-time rule is calculated from the date Petitioner committed the criminal offense that rendered him removable, rather than the date he was convicted. View "RUDNITSKYY V. GARLAND" on Justia Law

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The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reinstated a 1999 removal order entered against Petitioner. Because Petitioner expressed a fear of returning to Mexico, an asylum officer conducted a reasonable fear screening interview to determine whether Petitioner should be given the opportunity to establish his claims at a merits hearing before an Immigration Judge (IJ) on his application for withholding of removal and relief under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). The asylum officer determined, and an IJ affirmed, that Petitioner did not show a reasonable possibility of persecution or torture were he to be removed. Consequently, Petitioner never had the opportunity to present additional evidence of his claims at a merits hearing. Petitioner now petitions for a review of the IJ’s negative reasonable fear determination at the screening stage.   The Ninth Circuit granted Petitioner’s petition. The panel held that Petitioner’s own credible testimony sufficiently established a reasonable fear of persecution or torture to warrant a hearing before an IJ on the merits of his claims for relief. Petitioner credibly testified that three cartels seek to control the region around his hometown in Mexico, and Autodefensa, a local community defense group, fights to prevent cartel influence. As part of the conflict, the cartels carry out weekly attacks to kill Autodefensa members and target families of community defense members to erode resistance to cartel control. One of Petitioner’s uncles is the leader of Autodefensa. Petitioner fears that, if removed to Mexico, the cartels will discover his identity as a relative of Autodefensa members and harm or kill him. View "ERIC HERMOSILLO V. MERRICK GARLAND" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, a native and citizen of Mexico, reentered the United States without inspection in 2003. The Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) ordered him removed to Mexico after reinstating an earlier removal order that had been entered against him in 1994. Petitioner expressed a fear of returning to Mexico. The asylum officer determined that Petitioner did not have a reasonable fear of such harm, and an immigration judge (“IJ”) affirmed that determination. Thirty days after the IJ’s decision—but more than thirty days after the date his removal order was reinstated—Petitioner petitioned for review on several grounds, including that the reasonable fear screening procedures established by federal regulation are inconsistent with the statutory provisions governing withholding of removal. Petitioner agreed that the thirty-day filing deadline is no longer jurisdictional, but still disagrees that his petition was untimely. Petitioner continues to maintain that Ortiz-Alfaro’s holding that petitions for review become ripe upon the conclusion of reasonable fear proceedings remains good law.   The Ninth Circuit denied Petitioner’s petition. The panel held that: (1) the thirty-day deadline for filing a petition for review set forth in 8 U.S.C. Section 1252(b)(1) is a nonjurisdictional rule; (2) Petitioner’s petition for review, which was filed within thirty days of the conclusion of his reasonable fear proceedings, but not within thirty days of the reinstatement of his removal order, was timely; and (3) the reasonable fear screening procedures established by regulation are consistent with the statutory provisions governing withholding of removal. The panel concluded that Petitioner’s petition was timely, however denied the petition on the merits. View "JOSE ALONSO-JUAREZ V. MERRICK GARLAND" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed his sentence of twenty-seven months’ imprisonment followed by three years’ supervised release for attempted reentry following removal. Defendant had been deported from the United States six times, most recently about a month before his arrest. The same district court judge who sentenced Defendant in this case had presided over his prior sentencing hearing for illegal reentry. On appeal, Defendant raised two challenges to the court’s sentence.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed Defendant’s sentence. The panel held that so long as Defendant is apprised of the consequences of entering into a Type B plea agreement and accedes to them voluntarily, he has no right to withdraw from the agreement on the ground that the court does not accept the sentencing recommendation or request. Accordingly, the district court’s use of the word “reject” in the context of a Type B plea agreement can have no legal effect. The panel wrote that the record establishes that Defendant was aware of the consequences of entering into a Type B plea agreement, and concluded that the district court therefore did not abuse its discretion under the circumstances.   Defendant argued that the district court committed procedural error when it used Defendant’s alleged promise at his prior sentencing hearing not to return to the United States as a sentencing factor. Reviewing for plain error, the panel held that the district court’s factual finding that Defendant had assured the court at the prior sentencing hearing that he would not return to the United States is supported by the record. View "USA V. URBANO TORRES-GILES" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, a native and citizen of Mexico, petitioned for review of the Board of Immigration Appeals’ (“BIA”) order dismissing his appeal. He argues that the BIA erred in finding that his prior menacing conviction under Oregon Revised Statute Section 163.190 constitutes a crime involving moral turpitude (“CIMT”), rendering him ineligible for cancellation of removal.   The Ninth Circuit granted the petition. The panel held that a conviction under Oregon Revised Statute Section 163.190 does not constitute a crime involving moral turpitude (CIMT). The panel explained that in the BIA’s precedential decision in Matter of J-G-P-, 27 I. & N. Dec. 642 (BIA 2019), which held that Section 163.190 categorically qualifies as a CIMT, the BIA erred in its analysis of this court’s prior caselaw. The panel remanded for further consideration of Petitioner’s application for cancellation of removal. View "JOSE FLORES-VASQUEZ V. MERRICK GARLAND" on Justia Law