Justia Immigration Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
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Iris and Jose lived with their two children in Usulután, a part of El Salvador that they believed to be controlled by MS-13. They ran a small retail business. In 2016, gang members began extorting Jose, threatening to kill the family if Jose did not pay. Gang members robbed Jose and a colleague at gunpoint. Jose did not report the crimes to the police. He knew that the police conducted daily raids in his neighborhood to combat gang activity but he believed that the gangs had infiltrated the government. He feared that MS-13 would learn of his complaints and kill him. The mayor was subsequently arrested for helping gang members collect “rent.” Members of MS-13 interrogated Jose about his dealings with the police. Jose left El Salvador but the gang continued to extort and threaten Iris. Eventually, she fled to the United States.The family sought asylum and withholding of removal, submitting country-condition reports about gang activity in El Salvador that corroborated their testimony. An IJ ordered the family’s removal, finding Iris and Jose credible, but concluding that they had not established that the government was unable or unwilling to control MS-13. The BIA affirmed. The Sixth Circuit denied a petition for review. The BIA did not commit a legal error in interpreting and applying the asylum and withholding-of-removal statutes. Its opinion permits discernment of the grounds on which it relied and its findings have a fair evidentiary basis. View "Rodriguez de Palucho v. Garland" on Justia Law

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Tantchev, a citizen of Bulgaria, entered the U.S. in 1999, with a business visa. He received lawful permanent resident status in 2012., Tantchev ran a trucking business out of a Chicago warehouse. In 2008, Tantchev started a side business coordinating the export of shipping containers from Chicago to Mongolia for customers. Tantchev never looked inside the containers; he completed customs paperwork describing the contents of the containers using the information provided by the customers. Customs learned that several of these shipping containers held stolen cars. In 2016, Tantchev was convicted of exporting stolen vehicles, 18 U.S.C. 553. The Seventh Circuit affirmed his conviction, rejecting a challenge to the use of an “ostrich” instruction, referencing situations where the defendant is willfully blind to material facts,After Tantchev was released from prison, he was placed in removal proceedings, 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii), on the grounds that his conviction was an aggravated felony under 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(43)(G). An immigration judge ordered Tantchev deported. The BIA affirmed. Tantchev was deported in 2022. The Sixth Circuit denied a petition for review. The BIA in Tantchev’s case did not err in concluding that the mens rea of willful blindness encompassed in section 553(a)(1) categorically matches the mens rea requirement of a receipt of stolen property crime under section 1101(a)(43)(G). View "Tantchev v. Garland" on Justia Law

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The Secretary of Homeland Security’s 2021 Guidance notes that the Department lacks the resources to apprehend and remove all of the more than 11 million removable noncitizens in the country and prioritizes apprehension and removal of noncitizens who are threats to “national security, public safety, and border security.” Whether a noncitizen poses a threat to public safety "requires an assessment of the individual and the totality of the facts and circumstances.” The Guidance lists aggravating and mitigating factors that immigration officers should consider and does not “compel an action to be taken or not taken,” and “may not be relied upon to create any right or benefit.” In a suit by Arizona, Montana, and Ohio, the district court issued a “nationwide preliminary injunction,” blocking the Department from relying on the Guidance priorities and policies in making detention, arrest, and removal decisions. The Sixth Circuit granted a stay pending appeal and subsequently reversed the order. The court noted “many dubious justiciability questions” with respect to standing. The Guidance leaves considerable implementation discretion and does not create any legal rights for noncitizens, suggesting it is not reviewable. Even if the states cleared the justiciability hurdles, they are unlikely to succeed on the merits of their claim that the Guidance violates the Administrative Procedure Act, whether on the grounds that it is contrary to law, it is arbitrary or capricious, or it lacks a required notice and comment, 5 U.S.C. 706(2), 553. View "Arizona v. Biden" on Justia Law

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The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) dismissed an appeal by Antonio, a citizen of the Dominican Republic, from an order denying his request for deferral of removal under the Convention Against Torture. The Sixth Circuit granted a stay of removal pending a decision on the merits of his petition, 8 U.S.C. 1252(b)(3)(B). "Everyone agrees" that Antonio will likely be tortured if he is removed. The record indicates that Antonio, who was involved with serious drug trafficking gangs that might have control over the Dominican Republic police forces, will not be protected by the government from the torture to which he will be subject upon his return. Antonio has made a substantial showing that one of his torturers in the past was a police officer. In light of his strong showing of irreparable harm, Antonio’s arguments present a sufficient likelihood of success to weigh in favor of granting a stay pending an appeal on the merits. A stay pending a merits decision is necessary to preserve any value in hearing his case on the merits. View "Antonio v. Garland" on Justia Law

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After Ramirez-Figueredo entered the U.S. from Cuba, he amassed convictions for the delivery and manufacture of controlled substances, domestic violence, assault with a dangerous weapon, retail fraud, stalking, assault and battery, disorderly conduct, possession of a switchblade, receiving stolen property, possession of a controlled substance, and indecent exposure. In 2020, a woman claimed that Ramirez-Figueredo had raped her and kept her for two days. About a month later, officers arrested Ramirez-Figueredo. A search of his backpack revealed heroin and methamphetamine. After receiving his Miranda rights, Ramirez-Figueredo confessed that the drugs were from the Sinaloa Cartel and that he intended to sell them. He admitted to distributing methamphetamine, heroin, and cocaine in Lansing. He pleaded guilty to drug crimes under Michigan law.In federal court, he pled guilty under 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1). The district court performed a Rule 11 colloquy but, contrary to FRCP 11(b)(1)(O), did not tell Ramirez-Figueredo that his guilty plea might have immigration-related consequences. Ramirez-Figueredo’s counsel claimed that his client had cooperated and proffered, but that the government had not moved for a downward departure under U.S.S.G. 5K1.1. After calculating a Guidelines range of 168-210 months, the district court sentenced Ramirez-Figueredo to 192 months’ imprisonment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Ramirez-Figueredo was already deportable when he pleaded guilty. The district court considered the minimal evidence of his cooperation. View "United States v. Ramirez-Figueredo" on Justia Law

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In 2001, after being convicted of forgery, Estrada-Gonzalez was removed to Guatemala. Twenty years later, he was arrested for domestic violence. Estrada-Gonzalez pleaded guilty to illegally reentering the U.S, 8 U.S.C. 1326; the government agreed to recommend a within-Guidelines sentence. The agreement added: “Neither party will recommend or suggest in any way that a departure or variance is appropriate, either regarding the sentencing range or regarding the kind of sentence.” The agreed guidelines range was six-12 months. The prosecutor noted that the state had dismissed Estrada-Gonzalez’s domestic-violence charges, then played an officer’s body-camera footage from Estrada-Gonzalez’s arrest, and stated that a sentence at the top of the guidelines range “would be at the least appropriate”: I realize that the statutory maximum is 20 years based on his prior forgery conviction … I would echo [the court’s] sentiments in regards to the safety of not only the wife, the children … certainly a high end of the sentencing guideline range would be at the least appropriate." The court imposed an 18-month term, rejecting the defense argument that the government had violated the plea agreement.The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The district court heard the prosecution’s ambiguous statement and rejected Estrada-Gonzalez’s reading of it, finding that the prosecutor had been advocating only “for a sentence at the high range of the guidelines.” What the prosecutor expressed is a type of fact question; the district court did not clearly err in its resolution of the question. View "United States v. Estrada-Gonzalez" on Justia Law

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The Secretary of Homeland Security’s 2021 Guidance notes that the Department lacks the resources to apprehend and remove all of the more than 11 million removable noncitizens in the country and prioritizes apprehension and removal of noncitizens who are threats to “our national security, public safety, and border security.” “Whether a noncitizen poses a current threat to public safety,” the Guidance says, “requires an assessment of the individual and the totality of the facts and circumstances.” The Guidance lists aggravating and mitigating factors that immigration officers should consider and does not “compel an action to be taken or not taken,” and “is not intended to, does not, and may not be relied upon to create any right or benefit.”In a suit by Arizona, Montana, and Ohio, the district court issued a “nationwide preliminary injunction,” blocking the Department from relying on the Guidance priorities and policies in making detention, arrest, and removal decisions. The Sixth Circuit granted a stay pending appeal. The court noted “many dubious justiciability questions” with respect to standing. The Guidance leaves considerable implementation discretion and does not create any legal rights for noncitizens, suggesting it is not reviewable. The preliminary injunction likely causes irreparable harm to the Department by interfering with its authority to exercise enforcement discretion and allocate resources toward this administration’s priorities. A stay pending appeal should not substantially injure the three states. View "Arizona v. Biden" on Justia Law

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Tescari and Salame, Venezuelan citizens, have two minor children. Tescari removed the children from their home in Venezuela and brought them with her to the U.S. Salame filed a petition seeking their return under the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Abduction. Tescari and the children were granted asylum in the U.S.The parties stipulated that Salame had a prima facie of wrongful removal and retention. Tescari claimed an affirmative defense under Article 13(b) of the Convention, 22 U.S.C. 9003(e)(2). The court concluded Tescari failed to establish, by clear and convincing evidence, her affirmative defense that returning the children to Venezuela would subject them to a grave risk of physical or psychological harm or otherwise place them in an intolerable situation.The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Because the alleged abuse was relatively minor, the court had no discretion to refuse the petition nor to consider potential future harm. The determination that Salame could provide the children with shelter, food, and medication in Venezuela is not clearly erroneous. Despite Venezuela’s political schisms and civil unrest, Tescari failed to introduce sufficient evidence that it is a zone of war, famine, or disease. Any defects in the Venezuelan court system fall short of "an intolerable situation." While the factors that go into a grant of asylum may be relevant to Hague Convention determinations, the district court has a separate and exclusive responsibility to assess the applicability of an Article 13(b) affirmative defense. View "Ajami v. Solano" on Justia Law

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Khaytekov, a citizen of Uzbekistan, came to the U.S. in 2001 and overstayed his visa for many years. In removal proceedings, Khaytekov sought asylum. alleging that he had been persecuted “by nationalist[s] and fascist[s]” in Uzbekistan because of his religion, nationality, and political opinion and feared “physical attacks” if he returned. While his removal proceedings were pending, Khaytekov married a U.S. citizen, withdrew his request for asylum, and applied to adjust his status to lawful permanent resident, which required him to show that he was “admissible” 8 U.S.C. 1255(a). An IJ found Khaytekov inadmissible because he had filed a “completely fabricated” asylum application. Khaytekov later admitted that the application contained false information; he had not been persecuted in Uzbekistan. Khaytekov’s subsequent request for a hardship waiver was denied because Khaytekov had knowingly filed a frivolous asylum application, which rendered him “permanently ineligible” for any benefits under the immigration laws, section 1158(d)(6). The BIA upheld the decision.The Sixth Circuit previously denied relief, rejecting a “Pereira” claim in which Khaytekov alleged that he received a defective notice to appear. Following a remand from the Supreme Court, the Sixth Circuit again denied Khaytekov’s petition. To be “permanently ineligible,” an asylum seeker who files a frivolous application must have received adequate notice “of the consequences” of doing so, section 1158(d)(4)(A), (d)(6). The standard asylum application form contains a warning about frivolous applications. The IJ did not give Khaytekov the customary verbal secondary warning, but nothing in section 1158(d) requires an additional warning. View "Khaytekov v. Garland" on Justia Law

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The noncitizens, victims of grave crimes, cooperated with law enforcement. They applied for U-visas, 8 U.S.C. 1103(a)(1), 1101(a)(15)(U), and authorization to work; two sought derivative U-visas and work authorization for family members. They have waited years for USCIS to adjudicate their applications and remain unable to obtain lawful employment, to visit family members who live abroad, or to attain deferred-action status to protect them from removal. They filed suit. While an appeal was pending, USCIS announced a new program for persons with pending U-visa applications: the “Bona Fide Determination Process,” (BFDP).The Sixth Circuit held that the BFDP did not moot any part of the case. Federal courts are not precluded from reviewing claims that USCIS unreasonably delayed placing principal petitioners on the U-visa waitlist. USCIS is required by 8 U.S.C. 1184(p)(6) and the BFDP to decide whether a U-visa application is “bona fide” before the agency can decide whether principal petitioners and qualifying family members may receive Bona Fide Determination Employment Authorization Documents, so 5 U.S.C. 706(1) permits the federal courts to hasten an unduly delayed determination.The court subsequently held that the plaintiffs pleaded sufficient facts that the delayed waitlist determinations have harmed their health and welfare. Plaintiffs should be permitted to amend their complaints should they wish to challenge any delayed “bona fide” determinations. View "Garcia v. United States Department of Homeland Security" on Justia Law