Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

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Asentic, a Bosnian Serb who is now 65, was granted refugee status and brought his family to the U.S. from the former Yugoslavia more than 15 years ago. He has been a permanent resident for nearly that long, but the Board of Immigration Appeals authorized the government to remove Asentic because, in applying for refugee status, he failed to disclose his participation as a combatant in the Bosnian conflict during the 1990s. The Board could have granted Asentic a discretionary waiver of removal under 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(1)(H) but declined to do so. The Seventh Circuit rejected Asentic’s appeal. “Although he presents a sympathetic case,” he is removable based on fraud, and the court lacked jurisdiction to review the Board’s discretionary decision to deny the waiver. View "Asentic v. Sessions" on Justia Law

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After his conviction for a felony in Illinois, Rodriguez-Contreras, a lawful U.S. permanent resident, was found in possession of a weapon and was convicted under 720 ILCS 5/24–1.1(a). The Board of Immigration Appeals concluded that he was removable as an alien convicted of an “aggravated felony,” 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(43); violation of 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1), which bars anyone convicted of a felony from possessing a firearm, is an aggravated felony. The Seventh Circuit remanded. The BIA did not address whether the substantive elements of the state offense match those of the federal law, which defines "firearm" as “any weapon … designed to … expel a projectile by the action of an explosive.” Compressed air is not an explosive, so pneumatic weapons are not “firearms.” Illinois law defines a firearm as “any device ... designed to expel a projectile ... by the action of an explosion, expansion of gas or escape of gas.” Illinois law is broader than the federal law. The court rejected an argument that the Illinois statute is “divisible” and permits judges to determine which statutory provision was involved. Illinois has a single crime of weapon possession by a felon, with multiple ways of committing that crime. A definitional clause does not create a separate crime. Federal law does not foreclose Rodriguez-Contreras’ obtaining discretionary relief from removal. In exercising discretion the BIA may consider that Rodriguez-Contreras possessed a weapon that is subject to both state and federal prohibitions. View "Rodriguez-Contreras v. Sessions" on Justia Law

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Garcia, a Honduran national, came to the U.S. in 2003. He was ordered removed and departed in 2005. Garcia claims that he was kidnapped and beaten upon his return to Honduras because of his opposition to deforestation. He returned to the U.S. in 2014 and, after being apprehended, sought asylum. The Chicago Asylum Office issued a positive reasonable fear determination. The IJ granted Garcia statutory withholding of removal, stating that she lacked the authority to reconsider the reinstatement of Garcia’s removal order. The BIA rejected Garcia’s argument that he had a statutory right to seek asylum under 8 U.S.C. 1158(a), reasoning that it lacked authority to declare the controlling regulations in violation of the statute. The BIA noted that “several federal courts have held a person in reinstatement proceedings is not eligible for and cannot seek asylum.” The Seventh Circuit initially dismissed an appeal because asylum is a form of discretionary relief, so Garcia lacks standing to challenge the regulations prohibiting him from applying for it. On rehearing, the government and court agreed that Garcia has standing. On the merits, the Seventh Circuit held that 8 U.S.C. 1231(a)(5) plainly prohibits aliens subject to reinstatement of a removal order from applying for asylum. View "Garcia v. Sessions" on Justia Law

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In 2014, the Seventh Circuit held that the Attorney General has authority under 8 U.S.C. 1182(d)(3)(A)(ii) to waive an alien’s inadmissibility and to halt removal temporarily while the alien requests a U visa. In Sanchez’s case, the Board of Immigration Appeals held that IJs lack authority to grant such requests. The Seventh Circuit vacated and remanded. Delegation from the Attorney General to immigration judges is a matter of regulation; 8 C.F.R. 1003.10(a) states that “[i]mmigration judges shall act as the Attorney General’s delegates in the cases that come before them.” Disagreeing with the Third Circuit and the Attorney General, the Seventh Circuit held that IJs may exercise the Attorney General’s powers over immigration. On remand, the Board may consider whether 6 U.S.C. 271(b) and 557 transfer to the Secretary of Homeland Security all of the Attorney General’s discretionary powers under the immigration laws and may also address whether the power to grant a waiver of inadmissibility may be exercised only in favor of an alien who has yet to enter the United States. The Board must address and resolve those essential issues before the court can consider whether the disposition lies within the scope of the agency’s discretion. View "Baez-Sanchez v. Sessions" on Justia Law

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Victoria‐Faustino, a Mexican national who entered the U.S. illegally in 1991, is the father of five U.S. citizens. He returned to Mexico to visit his family in 1999 but re‐entered illegally in January 2000. During a 2000 traffic stop, Victoria‐Faustino provided the police with a false identity; he then served a term of two years’ imprisonment for obstruction of justice.In 2015, he was arrested for driving while under the influence of alcohol. DHS instituted removal based upon his 2000 conviction, which DHS determined constituted an aggravated felony such that he was subject to expedited removal procedures. Victoria‐Faustino indicated that he wished to contest or to request withholding of removal, based on his fear of persecution and torture upon removal to Mexico. He never challenged DHS’s determination that he was removable based upon his 2000 Illinois conviction. An Asylum Officer determined that while Victoria‐Faustino was credible, he had not established that he was entitled to asylum. The Seventh Circuit remanded. While the statute generally strips courts of jurisdiction to consider an appeal of a Final Administrative Removal Order, they retain jurisdiction to determine whether the underlying conviction upon which it is based is an aggravated felony. Victoria‐Faustino’s 2000 conviction was not properly classified as an aggravated felony. View "Victoria-Faustino v. Sessions" on Justia Law

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Orellana‐Arias, a citizen of El Salvador, was detained as he entered the United States in 2013. He had previously entered illegally and been removed in 2001 and had entered and worked undetected from 2007-2011. Orellana‐Arias testified that after returning to El Salvador, he was assaulted and extorted by gang members and that the police were unable or unwilling to protect him from future harm by gang members. While Orellana‐Arias was in custody in the U.S., gang members twice approached his wife, asking his whereabouts. An asylum officer determined that Orellana‐Arias did not have a reasonable fear of persecution or torture but an immigration judge disagreed. Orellana‐Arias sought withholding of removal and Convention Against Torture protection. An IJ found that Orellana‐Arias credible, but that he had not demonstrated that the mistreatment rose to the level of past persecution as opposed to mere harassment; that the risk of future mistreatment was too speculative to constitute a clear probability of future persecution; and that Orellana‐Arias did not establish a nexus between any protected ground and alleged harm. The BIA and Seventh Circuit agreed. Orellana‐Arias did not meet his burden of demonstrating a nexus between the alleged persecution and his proposed social groups of wealthy deportees or gang resisters. View "Orellana-Arias v. Sessions" on Justia Law

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Chen, a lawful permanent resident who came from China at age 11, was ordered removed from the U.S. as an alien convicted of a controlled‐substance crime, 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(2)(A)(i)(II). He had drug convictions in 2010 and 2011. The Board of Immigration Appeals decided that Chen was ineligible for cancellation of removal because of an Illinois conviction for possessing more than 30 but not more than 500 grams of marijuana, 720 ILCS 550/5(d), which, it concluded, qualified as an aggravated felony, making Chen ineligible for relief under 8 U.S.C. 1229b(a). The Seventh Circuit remanded, concluding that the Board misapplied the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Moncrieffe v. Holder, when it characterized Chen’s conviction as an aggravated felony. Nothing in that decision supports the conclusion that the possession of a tad more than 30 grams of marijuana—the lowest amount punishable under section 550/5(d)—can never be punished as a federal misdemeanor. View "Chen v. Sessions" on Justia Law

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Cojocari, a citizen of the former Soviet republic of Moldova, sought asylum, 8 U.S.C. 1158(b)(1)(A); withholding of removal, 8 U.S.C. 1231(b)(3)(A); and protection under the United Nations Convention Against Torture. His wife is a derivative applicant. The immigration judge denied the application and ordered removal. The BIA dismissed an appeal. The Seventh Circuit granted a petition under 8 U.S.C. 1252, stating that in this case, the agency’s credibility finding was arbitrary and capricious; the immigration judge “made mountains out of molehills, fashioned inconsistencies from whole cloth, and held Cojocari’s efforts to obtain corroborating documents against him.” The court noted that the State Department reports that corruption is rampant in Moldova, and torture by police and prison officials has been widely reported. The government introduced no evidence actually rebutting Cojocari’s claims concerning his persecution for political activism, while Cojocari introduced substantial documentary evidence, including hospital and arrest records. View "Cojocari v. Sessions" on Justia Law

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Herrera-Ramirez is a citizen of Mexico but has lived in the U.S. since she was six years old. She is married and has four U.S.-citizen children. She was at a Milwaukee bar when her friends got into a fight with other patrons. Herrera-Ramirez ushered her friends out of the bar and into her car, intending to leave. At the request of her friend, she drove past the other patrons who were standing outside the bar. Her passenger shot two of the bystanders. After the shooting, Herrera-Ramirez did not contact the police. The police found her, arrested her, and found the gun in her car. She was convicted of first-degree reckless injury and sentenced to 11 months in prison. An IJ and the BIA found that her offense was a “particularly serious crime” and that she was ineligible for withholding of removal (the only possible relief). The Seventh Circuit dismissed her petition for review from that determination for lack of jurisdiction; a court may not second-guess the Board’s decision that a crime is “particularly serious” under 8 U.S.C. 1252(a)(2)(B)(ii), unless the petitioner has raised a question of law. Herrera-Ramirez was disputing only the Board’s discretionary characterization of her offense. View "Herrera-Ramirez v. Sessions" on Justia Law

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Tsegmed, a citizen of Mongolia, overstayed a nonimmigrant visa and has lived in the U.S. since 2004. In 2008, after his second DUI arrest, the government placed him in removal proceedings. He sought asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). Tsemed had been a high-ranking officer in the Mongolian military and had knowledge of the internal workings of the governing Communist regime. He and his friend, Bayarbat, became involved with the pro-democracy movement and were arrested twice. Bayarbat’s family was killed; Tsegmed believes the government caused the deaths of his son and his brother and that agents were still looking for him. The IJ denied relief; the BIA affirmed. The Seventh Circuit denied a petition for review, stating that it lacked jurisdiction to review the denial of his asylum application because Tsegmed had missed the filing deadline and had not established material changes or extraordinary circumstances. The evidence did not compel the conclusion that he is eligible for withholding or CAT relief. Tsegmed had a subjectively genuine fear of persecution is not objectively reasonable. The Democratic Party controls the presidency and a plurality of the Mongolian parliament. The State Department reports that there are no official political prisoners or detainees in Mongolia View "Otgonbaatar Tsegmed v. Jefferson B. Sessions III" on Justia Law