Justia Immigration Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
by
Cuevas-Nuno, a native of Mexico, entered the U.S illegally and was charged as removable, 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(6)(A)(i). Cuevas-Nuno conceded removability but applied for cancellation of removal and successfully moved to transfer his case from Virginia to Memphis. Notice of his next master hearing was sent to Cuevas-Nuno’s counsel. Cuevas-Nuno did not attend his second hearing. The IJ conducted an in absentia hearing, found Cuevas-Nuno’s cancellation of removal application abandoned, dismissed it, and ordered Cuevas-Nuno removed. Sixteen days later, Cuevas-Nuno moved to reopen, stating that he was confused about the date of the hearing. The IJ found no exceptional circumstance and denied the motion. The BIA upheld the determination.The Sixth Circuit dismissed a petition for review; Cuevas-Nuno failed to administratively exhaust his claims. Cuevas-Nuno’s argument that the incorrect notice his counsel’s employee gave him constitutes an “exceptional situation” sufficient for the IJ to sua sponte reopen her removal order is different from the issue of whether that conduct constitutes an “exceptional circumstance” sufficient to reopen the order under section 1229a(b)(5)(C)(i). His BIA brief did not mention lack of notice under 8 U.S.C. 1229a(b)(5)(C)(ii), his due process right to be heard, or his failure to submit evidence supporting his eligibility for cancellation of removal. The brief only discussed exceptional situations within the context of its argument that the IJ erred in failing to exercise her sua sponte discretion to reopen her removal order—not an 8 U.S.C. 1229a(b)(5)(C)(i) motion to reopen. View "Cuevas-Nuno v. Barr" on Justia Law

by
Marqus, a citizen of Iraq, was admitted to the U.S. as a refugee in 2012 and later adjusted his status to Lawful Permanent Resident. In 2017, he was convicted of attempted criminal sexual conduct. In removal proceedings, against the government’s objections, the IJ admitted three expert declarations concerning country conditions. Marqus believes that he would be tortured if he were to return to Iraq because he is Chaldean Christian; was previously tortured by and deserted from the Iraqi military; was previously targeted, abused, and threatened by the El Mahdi army; and lacks documentation to travel within Iraq without being stopped and tortured. The IJ determined that Marqus was ineligible for withholding of removal because the “particularly serious crime” bar applied, 8 U.S.C. 1158(b)(2)(A)(ii) or for protection under the Convention Against Torture. The BIA dismissed his appeal and denied his request to consider new evidence: an additional country-conditions expert declaration, the Department of State 2017 Human Rights Report on Iraq, and the 2017 International Religious Freedom Report on Iraq.The Sixth Circuit affirmed in part but remanded. It is not clear that the new evidence materially changes Marqus’s chances of obtaining CAT relief but that evidence, particularly the reports, could be significant. Without an analysis by the BIA of why this evidence is immaterial, it is impossible to determine whether the BIA abused its discretion. View "Marqus v. Barr" on Justia Law

by
In 2008, Melara, a citizen of El Salvador, entered the U.S. illegally and was removed after being apprehended. In 2016, Melara’s wife and children immigrated legally to the U.S. and became lawful permanent residents. Melara then experienced threats and violence from the MS-13 gang. In 2017, Melara illegally reentered the U.S. The government apprehended him and reinstated his 2008 removal order. An asylum officer found that he had established a reasonable possibility of future torture. An IJ found that Melara was not entitled to relief. The BIA dismissed an appeal. The Sixth Circuit remanded Melara’s withholding-only case and dismissed his other petitions for review. The BIA reinstated Melara’s appeal.Melara has remained in detention since December 2017. In June 2019, Melara filed a habeas corpus petition, 28 U.S.C. 2241, seeking either release from detention or a bond hearing before a neutral decision-maker. The district court dismissed Melara’s petition, holding that 8 U.S.C. 1226 does not apply to his detention and under 8 U.S.C. 1231(a)'s indefinite-detention standard, his due process claims fail because his removal is reasonably foreseeable. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Section 1231(a) provides the authority for detaining aliens in withholding-only proceedings. Because Melara’s removal is reasonably foreseeable, his continued detention does not violate due process under the Supreme Court’s decision in Zadvydas v. Davis. View "Martinez v. LaRose" on Justia Law

by
Skripkov worked as an event planner for the Chelyabinsk (Russia) regional government and served on a commission that oversaw government procurement activities. In 2010, regional leadership directed Skripkov to accept bids from specified suppliers at inflated prices. Skripkov refused and received “[c]onstant threats,” causing him to resign. Skripkov continued to receive threats. Skripkov and his wife moved to a different town. In 2014, Skripkov learned about a bidding competition held by the government of Chelyabinsk, believed that the “staggering” amount at issue was unjustified, and reported to a prominent watchdog organization. Skripkov continued to experience threats; someone threw a rock through his window and a note found in the backyard stated: “[Y]ou d[ug] into our business, we will spoil your life.” In 2018, Skripkov assumed a more public role as an anti-corruption activist, which led to several arrests and physical violence, accompanied by more threats.Skripkov, on vacation in the U.S., received a call from his mother explaining that individuals had come by her house to ask about Skripkov’s adopted son. Skripkov feared that they would take his son. He and his wife sought asylum. The Russian government issued an indictment against Skripkov. An IJ and the BIA denied relief, finding that the officials were motivated solely by their pecuniary interest in furthering a corrupt scheme disrupted by Skripkov. The Seventh Circuit granted Skripkov’s petition for review. The BIA erred in disregarding evidence that Skripkov would be criminally prosecuted for his political opinion if he is returned to Russia. View "Skripkov v. Barr" on Justia Law

by
Kilic, a national of Bosnia and Herzegovina, was a lawful permanent U.S. resident. A Michigan court sentenced Kilic to five to 20 years of imprisonment for conspiracy to commit armed robbery, making her deportable, 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(43)(G), (U), 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii). The Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed the UJ’s denial of relief.The Sixth Circuit denied a petition for review. Kilic was not entitled to a waiver of inadmissibility under 8 U.S.C. 1182(h) (section 212(h)) or deferral of removal under the Convention Against Torture. To benefit from a section 212(h) waiver, a deportable alien must first “assimilate[] to the position of an applicant for admission”—either by voluntarily leaving the country and then seeking readmission or applying for adjustment of status. Kilic did neither. The court rejected an argument that the conditions for 212(h) relief violate equal protection by irrationally favoring aliens who have left the country over those who apply for the waiver while in the U.S. Under the Convention Against Torture, an alien may not be removed to a country where she would probably be tortured, 8 C.F.R. 208.16(c), 208.17(a). The immigration judge found that Kilic failed to show that she was likely to be tortured in Bosnia. View "Kilic v. Barr" on Justia Law

by
In 2003, 15-year-old Valadez Bonilla entered the U.S. illegally to be with his father. Months later, police charged him with drunk and disorderly conduct. Immigration authorities took custody of Valadez, then released Valadez into the care of his aunt at her home in Lorain, Ohio. Valadez identified that address as the place at which he would be staying. The same day, immigration authorities personally served Valadez with a notice to appear “on a date to be set at a time to be set.” After Valadez’s release, immigration authorities mailed multiple notices about his upcoming removal hearing to his aunt’s address. When Valadez did not appear at his removal hearing, an IJ ordered him removed in his absence. In 2008, Valadez was removed to Mexico after he was stopped for speeding while driving without a license. Valadez illegally reentered this country many times.In 2019, after the government charged him with illegal reentry, Valadez sought to rescind his earlier removal order, claiming that he had not received notice of his hearing. The BIA found that Valadez failed to prove the lack of notice, relying on his long delay in seeking to rescind the removal order after he learned of it. The Sixth Circuit denied Valadez’s petition for review. The BIA could reasonably conclude that Valadez did receive notice in conformity with all requirements in 8 U.S.C. 1229(a)(1) and (2). View "Valadez-Lara v. Barr" on Justia Law

by
Garcia illegally entered the U.S. days before his eighteenth birthday and was found to be an “unaccompanied alien child.” Over a year later, Garcia applied for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture, claiming that he had been threatened by gangs in El Salvador. Based on his purported status as an “unaccompanied alien child,” he sought relief from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. An immigration judge (IJ) took jurisdiction over his case and denied his claims for relief. The Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed but remanded so that the IJ could determine whether to continue removal proceedings while Garcia pursued adjustment of status. The IJ denied the continuance. The Board affirmed. The Sixth Circuit denied Garcia’s motion for a stay of removal. Garcia has been removedThe Sixth Circuit denied a petition for review, rejecting a challenge to the IJ’s jurisdiction. Garcia cited 8 U.S.C. 1158(b)(3)(C), which provides that USCIS “shall have initial jurisdiction over any asylum application filed by an unaccompanied alien child.” The provision requires that the alien be an “unaccompanied alien child” when he applies for asylum; it is not enough that the alien was an “unaccompanied alien child” when he first entered the U.S. In considering Garcia’s CAT application, the IJ applied the correct legal standard: that torture includes cases in which public officials show “willful blindness” to private torture. View "Garcia v. Barr" on Justia Law

by
Perez-Rodriguez, a citizen of Mexico, was ordered removed in June 2016. He reentered the country days later and was arrested and convicted under 18 U.S.C. 1546 for reentry after deportation and false personation in immigration matters. He was sentenced to time served (140 days) and removed again in December 2016. In June 2018, Perez-Rodriguez was arrested in Ohio on a failure to appear warrant for child endangering. He pled guilty to illegal reentry, Perez-Rodriguez had one prior conviction in 2015 for operating a motor vehicle under the influence (DUI), for which he received probation. Based on this criminal history, his prior count of reentry, and his acceptance of responsibility, Pretrial Services recommended a Guidelines range of 8-14 months' imprisonment. The district court entered a sentence of 24 months, noting Perez-Rodriguez’s DUI conviction, that he “apparently violated his probation,” and the need to deter individuals who demonstrate “a pattern of continuing to violate our laws.”The Sixth Circuit reversed and remanded for resentencing, finding Perez-Rodriguez’s sentence substantively unreasonable, Perez-Rodriguez had one DUI conviction before his first deportation, and he had not been convicted of anything that would endanger the public since that conviction. Perez-Rodriguez does not exhibit an extensive “pattern” of deportation and reentry nor do his past actions present that ongoing risk of harm to the public. View "United States v. Perez-Rodriguez" on Justia Law

by
Maria, a 33-year-old citizen of Guatemala, is a member of a Mayan indigenous group. She never attended school and cannot read or write. Maria lives in Nashville and works at a hotel. Maria is married to Juan who currently resides in Guatemala. They have four children. The older two were born in Guatemala and the younger two were born in the U.S. Huberto, 12, is autistic and cannot speak; he resides with Maria in Nashville. Maria sought asylum and withholding of removal based on domestic violence suffered at the hands of Juan, which arose within the broader context of systemic violence, harassment, and subordination of indigenous Mayan women in Guatemala. The BIA found that Maria articulated a cognizable particular social group and that the harm she suffered rose to the level of past persecution but concluded that the government effectively rebutted her well-founded fear of future persecution.The Sixth Circuit vacated and remanded. The Board’s decision was not supported by substantial evidence; Maria is still a Mayan indigenous woman and remains married to Juan, who will not agree to a divorce unless she cedes custody of her children. Physical separation does not necessarily indicate that a relationship has ended. Maria cannot “reasonably expect the assistance of the government” in controlling Juan, who has violated a restraining order, beat their oldest child, repeatedly threatened to kill Maria or their children, and purchased a gun with the intent to kill her. View "Antonio v. Barr" on Justia Law

by
Guzman crossed the border as a teenager in 1998 and has never returned to Mexico. In 2014, Guzman was served with notice of removal proceedings. Guzman applied for asylum, withholding of removal, and relief under the Convention Against Torture. Guzman testified that another family had murdered his father and grandfather; Guzman later suffered physical abuse by his stepfather. No one reported that abuse because of his political position. Guzman testified that he fears returning to Mexico because his stepfather, who still has police connections, would kill him and that the individuals who murdered his relatives would believe that he had come to avenge his father’s death and would try to kill him.The IJ found Guzman “generally credible,” but that his testimony alone was insufficient without corroboration and that Guzman could not establish a well-founded fear of future persecution. The BIA upheld the denials of relief, reasoning that Guzman did not adequately explain why he could not obtain affidavits from his aunt, sister, or mother “since he remains in contact” and that even with adequate corroboration, the persecution “was not based on his membership in [a particular social group].” The Sixth Circuit vacated. Substantial evidence does not support the determinations regarding the unavailability of evidence to corroborate Guzman’s claims. The BIA incorrectly required Guzman to demonstrate that his membership in a particular social group was “at least one central reason” for his persecution. View "Guzman-Vazquez v. Barr" on Justia Law