Justia Immigration Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
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Mbonga joined an athletic club that had connections with the Congo’s then-ruling political party, the People’s Party for Reconstruction and Development. The club’s leaders recruited Mbonga to join the party’s youth group in 2013. The leaders allegedly planned to use the youth group to disrupt peaceful protests by the opposition party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress. Mbonga refused to participate and, instead, joined the opposition party because of its political platform favoring equality and nonviolence. He began to attend the opposition party’s demonstrations and meetings. He claims that he was subsequently beaten by police several times.In 2018, Mbonga arrived in the United States and applied for asylum, withholding of removal, and relief under the Convention Against Torture. An IJ denied relief, finding that Mbonga was not credible and lacked a likelihood of future persecution because of changed conditions in the Congo. The country had since elected a new president from Mbonga’s own political party. The BIA affirmed. The Sixth Circuit denied a petition for review. The BIA can find a disqualifying change in conditions using general evidence showing that the political party that persecuted a refugee has lost power, which shifts the burden to the refugee to identify specific evidence proving that persecution still remains likely. Mbonga did not present such evidence. View "Mbonga v. Garland" on Justia Law

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Rafael, a citizen of Guatemala, applied for admission to the U.S. DHS served her with a Notice to Appear at a place and time “to be determined.” Months later, she received a Notice of Hearing, stating the time, date, and location for that hearing. Rafael appeared and applied for asylum and withholding of removal on the basis that, if returned to Guatemala, she would suffer violence because she is a woman. An IJ found Rafael credible, considered the evidence, including the 2018 State Department Report, then found that Rafael could not show that the Guatemalan government was unable or unwilling to protect women from persecution by private individuals. The IJ found that the Guatemalan government had taken measures to address the problem and that Rafael had not established a cognizable protected group, proven a nexus to a protected ground, or shown either that she had suffered past persecution or held an objectively reasonable fear of future persecution.Before the BIA, Rafael claimed that the removal proceedings were invalid for lack of jurisdiction because the initial Notice did not state the time and place. The BIA dismissed her appeal. The Sixth Circuit denied a petition for review. Rafael received the necessary notice and the IJ had jurisdiction; for purposes of her due process claim, she was not prejudiced by the omission of the place and time from the original notice. View "Rafael v. Garland" on Justia Law

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Hernandez, a citizen of Guatemala, has two minor children. Her daughter, A.L. is also a citizen of Guatemala. Her son, born in 2018, is a U.S. citizen. In 2016, Hernandez left Guatemala with her daughter and entered the U.S. without authorization. In removal proceedings under 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(6)(A)(i), Hernandez sought asylum and withholding of removal, alleging that she was a member of the indigenous K’iche’, whom the Guatemalan government does not help. She alleged that she had suffered and feared future “persecution in the form of severe economic disadvantage or the deprivation of liberty, food, housing, employment and other essentials of life” on account of her status as an indigenous K’iche’ woman.Although the IJ found Hernandez credible, he denied her claims for relief and ordered her removed. The BIA affirmed. The Sixth Circuit denied a petition for review. Substantial evidence supports a conclusion that Hernandez had not shown “persecution” because any economic deprivation she suffered or feared was not, and would not be, “deliberately imposed by the Guatemalan government or non-government actors the government is unable or unwilling to control.” View "Hernandez-Hernandez 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 some of their 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 that would 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.”The Sixth Circuit held that the issuance of the Bona Fide Determination Process does not moot any part of the case. Federal courts are not precluded from reviewing claims that USCIS has unreasonably delayed placing principal petitioners on the U-visa waitlist. USCIS is required by 8 U.S.C. 1184(p)(6) and the Bona Fide Determination Process to decide whether a U-visa application is “bona fide” before the agency can exercise its discretion and decide whether principal petitioners and their 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 “bona fide” determination. View "Garcia v. United States Department of Homeland Security" on Justia Law

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Ortiz, raised in Guatemala, suffered significant domestic abuse by her intoxicated father and later by her boyfriend, Carlos, who raped her. She became pregnant and, fearing aggravating her father’s violence, moved in with Carlos. Clinic records confirm that Carlos assaulted Ortiz during her pregnancy. Ortiz later discovered bruises on her newborn. Worried that Carlos would routinely abuse her baby, Ortiz returned to her parents. Her father had become gravely ill. She continued to fear Carlos, who had threatened to kill her if she left him. Ortiz fled to the U.S. and applied for asylum, 8 U.S.C. 1158(b)(1)(A).An IJ denied her claim, holding that she failed to show that the Guatemalan government was unable or unwilling to control her abuser. The BIA affirmed, citing a State Department report noting that Guatemala had “taken steps” to curb domestic violence. About a week after the Board's final order, the Sixth Circuit decided “Antonio.” Ortiz unsuccessfully sought reconsideration, arguing that Antonio changed the asylum law. The Sixth Circuit denied a petition for review. Antonio relied on the totality of the evidence to reject the Board’s finding; the fact-specific rationales, in that case, do not transfer to Ortiz. The police twice ignored Antonio’s request for assistance, Ortiz never asked the authorities for help View "Ortiz v. Garland" on Justia Law

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Sanchez immigrated from Honduras in 1994 and became a lawful permanent resident when he married a U.S. citizen. In 1999, Sanchez pleaded guilty to sexual battery in Ohio. He was ordered removed because sexual battery is a crime involving moral turpitude, 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(i). The BIA noted that Sanchez implied that he pled guilty in reliance on his attorney's assurance that a conviction would not result in immigration consequences but concluded that it had no authority to look behind his conviction. Immigration authorities encountered Sanchez in the U.S. again in 2012 and 2018, twice reinstated the removal order, and removed him.Following his 2018 detention, Sanchez's counsel realized that his guilty plea was legally infirm. Ohio law requires that a judge advise defendants such as Sanchez that a guilty plea might result in deportation but the judge in Sanchez’s case failed to give that advisement. The court vacated the sexual battery conviction. Sanchez entered a new plea for simple assault—which is not a crime involving moral turpitude.Sanchez moved the BIA to reopen his 2008 removal order, citing ineffective assistance by former counsels. The BIA denied the motion, determining that it lacked jurisdiction because 8 U.S.C. 1231(a)(5), “prohibits reopening of removal proceedings if those proceedings are subject to reinstatement.” The Sixth Circuit denied relief. Nothing in section 1231(a)(5) implies exceptions for exceptional circumstances. Sanchez’s original removal order “is not subject to being reopened” because he illegally reentered the country. View "Sanchez-Gonzalez v. Garland" on Justia Law

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In 2001, Flores-Perez was detained on the belief that he was in the country illegally. Flores-Perez produced two forms of state-issued identification, each containing his address. Officials served Flores-Perez with a Notice to Appear (NTA), alleging that Flores-Perez was a citizen of Mexico who had illegally entered the U.S. Immigration officials wrote an incorrect address—Apartment 132—on the NTA, which Flores-Perez nonetheless signed. No interpreter assisted with the initial processing. As Flores-Perez left, he was given several relevant documents, including a copy of the NTA he had signed, and told, in Spanish, that he would receive another document in the mail. The immigration court sent a Notice of Hearing to the incorrect address; it was returned because “no such number” existed. When Flores-Perez did not attend the hearing, the IJ proceeded in absentia and ordered Flores-Perez removed. The removal order was also returned. In 2009, immigration officials arrested Flores-Perez and deported him days later. Flores-Perez unlawfully returned to the U.S. that year.In 2018, he was arrested while attempting to break into an apartment and charged with reentry after deportation, 8 U.S.C. 1326(a). Flores-Perez argued that his indictment should be dismissed because he did not receive adequate notice of his 2003 removal hearing. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the rejection of his claims for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. Flores-Perez failed to challenge his removal order until filing this collateral challenge, nearly 20 years later, and after he was deported due. View "United States v. Flores-Perez" on Justia Law

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In 1994, Ahmed and Wahasi allegedly were married. Ahmed lives in the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident. Wahasi and their sons, all Yemeni citizens, live in Malaysia. In 2008, Ahmed filed an I-130 petition on behalf of his wife and sons, which was approved. Ahmed’s wife and children visited the U.S. consulate in Yemen to apply for visas. Consular officials grew suspicious that they were not who they said they were, requested additional proof of identification, and placed the applications into “administrative processing.” In 2017, Presidential Proclamation 9645 made it more difficult for Yemeni nationals to receive visas to enter the U.S. Ahmed and his family joined a lawsuit that challenged the validity of the Proclamation and the way in which the government handled their visas. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld Proclamation 9645. The U.S. consulate denied the family’s visa applications due to lingering concerns about their identities and sent Ahmed’s I-130 petition to USCIS for “review and possible revocation.”Ahmed and his family moved to amend their complaint to challenge the visa denials and the potential revocation of Ahmed’s I-130 petition. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the complaint, stating it has no authority to second guess the visa decisions of the American consulate. Noncitizens living abroad do not have any American constitutional rights. American residents, whether citizens or legal residents, do not have a constitutional right to require the government to admit non-citizen family members. View "Baaghil v. Miller" on Justia Law

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Tobias-Chaves and her daughter traveled from Honduras and entered the U.S. in 2014, to escape from Tobias-Chaves’s abusive husband. DHS filed charges against them in Houston, where they were then living. That Immigration Court attempted to send Tobias-Chaves a Notice to Appear but because of a clerical error, she never received it. The court ordered the women removed in absentia. Two years later, Tobias-Chaves learned (and informed the courts) of the error. Her case was reopened in Houston. Tobias-Chaves applied for asylum. Her case was transferred to Memphis. There was then no immigration court in Louisville. An immigration court was created in Louisville in 2018, and the “Louisville docket” was transferred, including Tobias-Chaves’s case. There was no formal change of venue. Tobias-Chaves was not given an opportunity to dispute the change. The Louisville court held a hearing, at which her attorney argued that venue had never properly been transferred.The IJ denied Tobias-Chaves’s application for asylum and ordered her removed. The BIA affirmed, finding the “sua sponte change of venue” harmless error; Tobias-Chaves lived 75 miles from the Louisville location but more than 400 miles from the Memphis building. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Although the court violated procedural rules in transferring the proceeding, that violation was a procedural question relating to venue, not jurisdiction. In order to successfully challenge a procedural error such as an improper change of venue, a petitioner must show prejudice. Tobias-Chaves failed to do so. View "Tobias-Chaves v. Garland" on Justia Law

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Garcia, a citizen of Mexico, entered the U.S. without inspection in 2000 and was placed in removal proceedings in 2011. Garcia sought Cancellation of Removal or voluntary departure in the alternative. In 2018, Garcia married a U.S. citizen, who filed an I-130 Petition for Alien Relative. An IJ denied Garcia’s request for a continuance pending adjudication of his I-130 petition, noting that even if USCIS approved his I-130 petition, Garcia would have to leave and be processed at the American consulate in Mexico because he had not been “admitted or paroled following inspection.” The IJ found Garcia ineligible for Cancellation of Removal but granted voluntary departure.While his BIA appeal was pending, USCIS approved Garcia's I-130 petition, which required Garcia, to travel to a U.S. consulate but by leaving the U.S., noncitizens who have been unlawfully present for more than one year become inadmissible for 10 years. The Attorney General may waive this bar for immigrant-spouses of U.S. citizens. USCIS could take over a year to process the waiver, during which a noncitizen remains abroad. USCIS amended its regulations in 2013 to permit applicants to apply for a provisional unlawful presence waiver before departing the U.S.; this workaround did not extend to noncitizens in removal proceedings, unless those proceedings are administratively closed. In 2018, then-Attorney General Sessions issued the “Castro-Tum” decision, holding that IJs and the BIA did not have general authority to grant administrative closure. The BIA, citing Castro-Tum, denied Garcia’s request for administrative closure and upheld the denial of Cancellation of Removal.The Sixth Circuit vacated. IJs and the BIA have the authority for administrative closure to permit noncitizens to seek provisional unlawful presence waivers. Administrative closure is “appropriate and necessary” for the disposition of Garcia’scase. View "Garcia-DeLeon v. Garland" on Justia Law