Justia Immigration Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
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Menghistab, then a lawful U.S. permanent resident, pleaded guilty to rape in Indiana state court in 2011. The Department of Homeland Security began the process of removing him to Ethiopia. Because of his rape conviction and resulting sentence, Menghistab was barred from seeking asylum, discretionary withholding of removal, and waiver of removability. He was eligible only to apply for deferral of removal under the Convention against Torture. An immigration judge denied him that relief. The BIA affirmed.Ethiopia refused to issue Menghistab a travel document. He was released from custody in 2013 and continued to live in the United States until, in 2020, Ethiopia agreed to issue the travel document. The Department detained Menghistab pending removal. He moved to reopen his case, citing the changed circumstances in Ethiopia occasioned by the 2020 outbreak of civil war in the Tigray region in northern Ethiopia. The Tigray War has resulted in widespread attacks on civilians. Ethnic Eritreans, such as Menghistab, have suffered particularly severe human‐rights violations. The Board denied the motion without an evidentiary hearing.The Seventh Circuit remanded. A new hearing is needed to address the materiality of the war with respect to Menghistab’s risk of torture and whether Menghistab is an Ethiopian citizen. View "Menghistab v. Garland" on Justia Law

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Aguirre-Zuniga’s family immigrated from Mexico to the U.S. when he was three years old. He is now raising his own six-year-old daughter, an American citizen in Indiana. He became a lawful permanent resident 15 years ago. His primary language is English, and he has visited Mexico only three times since emigrating. In 2018, he pled guilty to the delivery of methamphetamine in Indiana. DHS concluded that his conviction was an aggravated felony subjecting him to deportation, and the Immigration Judge and the Board of Immigration Appeals agreed.The Seventh Circuit vacated. The Indiana law prohibiting the delivery of methamphetamine criminalizes more conduct than the corresponding federal law given that Indiana defines “methamphetamine” in a way federal law does not. When a state statute is broader than its federal counterpart, a conviction under that statute cannot trigger a noncitizen’s deportation. View "Aguirre-Zuniga v. Garland" on Justia Law

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Cabrera-Ruiz, a Mexican national, has a long history of entries into the U.S., deportations after convictions for crimes of varying severity, and subsequent reentries. In 2018, Drug Enforcement Administration agents arrested Cabrera-Ruiz for a suspected drug trafficking offense. Cabrera-Ruiz pleaded guilty to illegal reentry instead and received a time-served sentence. Facing deportation. Cabrera-Ruiz applied for deferral of removal pursuant to the Convention Against Torture.The immigration judge denied Cabrera-Ruiz relief, relying heavily on an adverse credibility determination. The BIA dismissed Cabrera-Ruiz’s appeal. The Seventh Circuit denied his petition for review. Substantial evidence supports the IJ’s and the BIA’s decisions. The court noted that Cabrera-Ruiz made four inconsistent statements regarding the drugs, his experiences with Mexican cartels, and his fear of return and once told an Asylum Officer that he did not fear persecution or torture. Arrested for drugs but sentenced only for an immigration offense, Cabrera-Ruiz claims to fear being perceived as a “snitch” and that he has gang tattoos that would draw unwanted cartel and police attention throughout Mexico but Cabrera-Ruiz had previously lived in Mexico with those tattoos. In addition, Cabrera-Ruiz completed an ICE interview without mentioning 27 days of torture that he subsequently claimed. View "Cabrera-Ruiz v. Garland" on Justia Law

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Arreola illegally entered the U.S. in 1996. He and Maria have two children, both U.S. citizens. Maria’s older daughters and three grandchildren also live in the household. Arreola is the primary breadwinner. Maria suffers from severe migraines and hearing problems. After Arreola’s 2015 DUI conviction, he was charged as inadmissible under 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(6)(A)(i). The notice said only that the date and time of the removal proceedings were “[t]o be set.” DHS notified Arreola several times of the date for his hearing. At his first appearance, Arreola sought cancellation of removal. Arreola fears being kidnapped if removed to Mexico, based on the false perception that people coming from the U.S. have money. Three days before his hearing, Arreola moved to terminate the removal proceedings because his initial Notice to Appear did not provide a date and time, citing the Supreme Court’s Pereira decision, issued a month earlier.The IJ held that the agency’s later provision of the missing information cured the violation and that Arreola failed to show that his removal “would result in exceptional and extremely unusual hardship to [his] … child. His only child under age 21 was “in good health, and has no special educational needs.” The BIA affirmed. The Seventh Circuit denied a petition for review. Even if Arreola’s untimeliness in objecting was excused, there was no prejudice stemming from the defective Notice. The cited personal hardships cited do not justify the cancellation of removal. View "Arreola-Ochoa v. Garland" on Justia Law

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Kithongo, born in Kenya, alleges he and his family endured hardships during his childhood there, including being harassed for political and religious reasons, and he watched a police officer murder his friend during political unrest. Kithongo assumed a new name and began working for a company of acrobats. At age 19, Kithongo was admitted into the U.S. on a P1 nonimmigrant performer visa and overstayed his period of authorization. He is 31 years old and married with children. Kithongo has been convicted of misdemeanors for battery, theft, and marijuana possession. Most recently, he was convicted in Indiana for conspiring with others to rob three victims, two of whom were children. Kithongo knowingly accompanied his co‐conspirators to the scene of the crime, likely aware that one of them was carrying a firearm. The robbery was violent.Kithongo was sentenced to one year in prison and charged with removability under 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(1)(B), (a)(2)(A)(iii) for having an aggravated felony conviction. Kithongo applied for withholding of removal and relief under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). He denied that his conviction constituted an aggravated felony and applied for adjustment of status. The IJ ordered Kithongo removed; the BIA affirmed. The Seventh Circuit dismissed his appeals with respect to adjustment of status and withholding for lack of jurisdiction and denied the appeal concerning CAT relief on exhaustion grounds. View "Kithongo v. Garland" on Justia Law

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The diversity-visa program makes as many as 55,000 visas available annually to citizens of countries with low rates of immigration to the United States, 8 U.S.C. 1151(e), 1153(c); the State Department holds a lottery to determine priority. Applicants who qualify, through random selection, for a diversity visa “shall remain eligible to receive such visa only through the end of the specific fiscal year for which they were selected.” The fiscal-year limit has caused many applications to fail; bureaucratic inertia or foul-ups have the same effect as affirmative decisions that applicants are ineligible. The Seventh Circuit held in 2002 held that the fiscal-year limit cannot be extended by judicial order.In March 2020, the State Department stopped processing routine visa applications, including diversity visas. High-priority applications, such as for diplomats, medical emergencies, and medical personnel, continued to be approved. Two presidential orders confirmed the Department’s approach. Fiscal Year 2020 expired.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a suit by applicants whose eligibility had expired. Section 1154(a)(1)(I)(ii)(II) applies regardless of the relief sought; it does not set a time limit for administrative action nor impose any duty on the State Department. It only specifies the consequence of delay: the applicant’s eligibility expires. A court is not authorized to substitute a different consequence. There is no statute authorizing monetary relief for the plaintiffs’ outlays that did not lead to visas. View "Shahi v. United States Department of State" on Justia Law

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Camacho-Valdez, through attorney Thomann, petitioned for review of the denial of his applications for asylum, withholding of removal, and relief under the CAT. Thomann filed an emergency motion for a stay of removal, stating in general terms that the petition was likely to succeed because the agency overlooked Camacho-Valdez’s claim that he feared persecution based on family membership and erroneously concluded that he could reasonably relocate within Guatemala. The motion also generally mentioned ineffective assistance of counsel. Thomann did not pay the docketing fee or move to proceed in forma pauperis.The Seventh Circuit entered a temporary stay. The government responded that Camacho-Valdez never previously argued that his family membership put him in danger and the stay motion failed to identify any particular flaw in the conclusion that he could safely relocate. Thomann missed the deadline for filing a court-ordered supplement to the motion, then missed an extended deadline despite a reminder. The Seventh Circuit denied the stay motion and ordered Thomann to show cause why he should not be disciplined. He responded a day late that notifications on his smartphone were not working. The court dismissed the petition, finding that excuse unacceptable and noting that the docketing fee remained unpaid. The court imposed a sanction of $1,000, and, noting his history of noncompliance, ordered Thomann to show cause why he should not be suspended or removed from the Seventh Circuit bar. View "Camacho-Valdez v. Garland" on Justia Law

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Oluwajana became a lawful U.S. permanent resident in 2011. In 2017, he was convicted of criminal sexual assault and aggravated criminal sexual abuse. Charged with removability, 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii), he was unrepresented throughout immigration court proceedings. Oluwajana timely appealed his removal order and retained counsel.His attorney requested a copy of Oluwajana’s immigration file. The BIA set a date of February 3, 2021, for any brief to be filed. As the date neared, Oluwajana’s counsel still had not received the file. The BIA extended the due date to February 24. While a second extension request was pending, counsel received the file on February 16. Counsel advised the BIA that he could not prepare a brief in time. The BIA denied the second extension request but informed counsel that he could submit a late brief with a motion for its consideration. Oluwajana’s counsel filed the motion and brief, alleging due process violations, on March 8.The BIA rejected Oluwajana’s brief in a “cursory and factually erroneous” footnote and concluded that Oluwajana’s state convictions rendered him removable and that he was ineligible for asylum or withholding of removal or other relief. The BIA dismissed Oluwajana’s appeal without directly addressing the arguments raised in his brief. The Seventh Circuit remanded; any reasonable exercise of discretion required acceptance of Oluwajana’s brief. View "Oluwajana v. Garland" on Justia Law

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Dai, a Chinese citizen, was admitted to the U.S. on a student visa in 2010. She later applied for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT) on the basis of religious persecution. Following a merits hearing, an immigration judge denied relief, finding that Dai was not credible and that her evidence failed to establish past persecution or a well-founded fear of future persecution. The BIA affirmed. The Seventh Circuit denied a petition for review, finding the decision supported by substantial evidence. Dai acknowledged discrepancies in her testimony concerning how long she had been practicing her faith and her encounters with the police; she did not provide corroborative evidence. View "Dai v. Garland" on Justia Law

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Osmani fled the Kosovo War and was admitted to the U.S as a refugee in 1999. Osmani was convicted for possession of illegal narcotics in 2019. The government sought to remove Osmani based on a prior conviction for aggravated felony theft, commission of two or more crimes involving moral turpitude, and his narcotics conviction. Osmani sought adjustment of status to legal permanent resident, 8 U.S.C. 1159(a). The bases of inadmissibility may be waived for refugees, 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(2)(A)(i)(I), (II) “for humanitarian purposes, to assure family unity, or when it is otherwise in the public interest.” Osmani claimed he had no ties or documentation linking him to Kosovo, would be unable to support himself if removed, and was a member of a persecuted ethnic minority. The government took no position on Osmani’s applications.The IJ granted Osmani an adjustment and waiver, citing Osmani’s relationship with his family and childhood PTSD. Although Osmani submitted documents describing current conditions in Kosovo, the IJ did not address that issue. The BIA agreed that Osmani’s family ties were insufficient to justify waiver and the balance of equities disfavored Osmani, then declined to remand to the IJ to supplement the record, including on conditions in Kosovo. Osmani was removed. The Seventh Circuit remanded. The BIA legally erred by considering arguments the government did not present to the IJ, put Osmani on notice of, or develop any record evidence to support. In declining to remand, the BIA engaged in impermissible fact-finding. View "Osmani v. Garland" on Justia Law