Justia Immigration Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
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Gonzalez, a citizen of Guatemala, surrendered himself at the U.S. border and requested asylum. Gonzalez alleges that he would be persecuted and tortured because of his status as a former taxi driver if he is removed to Guatemala. An immigration judge denied Gonzalez’s application for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture. The Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed and the Sixth Circuit denied a petition for review. Gonzalez’s Notice to Appear, which omitted the date and time of the hearing, was promptly followed by a Notice of Hearing that provided this information, so both the IJ and the BIA had jurisdiction over Gonzalez’s case. There is no evidence that Gonzalez would be targeted as a former taxi driver, nor any evidence that former taxi drivers are perceived as a distinct group by Guatemalan society or by the gangs. View "Gonzalez-De Leon v. Barr" on Justia Law

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Moreno-Martinez, a citizen of Honduras, arrived in the U.S. in 1999, returned to Honduras in 2003, and reentered in 2004. In 2007, DHS issued “Notice to Appear” under 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(6)(A)(i), ordering Moreno-Martinez to appear on “a date to be set” at “a time to be set.” Almost two months later, the immigration court sent a notice setting June 26, 2007, as the initial hearing date. Moreno-Martinez applied for asylum, withholding of removal, and relief under the Convention Against Torture. An IJ denied those requests but granted voluntary removal. The BIA affirmed. Moreno-Martinez did not seek review of the removal order but left the U.S. in February 2012. He later returned. On August 1, 2018, ICE detained him and DHS filed a Notice of Intent to reinstate its previous removal order. Moreno-Martinez contends that DHS violated due process by not providing him a copy of the reinstatement order or allowing him to make a statement contesting the reinstatement so that he could argue that the removal order was invalid under Pereira v. Sessions, because his notice to appear lacked specific time-and-date information. The Sixth Circuit denied relief, reasoning that it had jurisdiction to review Moreno-Martinez’s due-process challenge because it presents a constitutional issue but that it could not grant the relief that Moreno-Martinez seeks, lacking jurisdiction to reopen the underlying removal order. The petition is an untimely collateral attack on the validity of the removal order, 8 U.S.C. 1252(b)(1). View "Moreno-Martinez v. Barr" on Justia Law

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A Colombian father brought his one-year-old son, TCG, to the United States, planning that TCG would stay with TCG’s Colombian mother, who was attempting to immigrate to the U.S. Mother was detained by INS in Texas, so father left TCG with mother’s sister in Tennessee and returned home to Colombia. Mother was released on bond and joined TCG in Tennessee. About five months later, father visited the two in the U.S., then returned to Colombia, leaving TCG in the U.S. The relationship between mother and father, who were not married, soon deteriorated. Almost a year later, father filed a petition under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, 22 U.S.C. 9001(a)(2), claiming that TCG had been vacationing in the U.S. and that mother had wrongfully retained him there, beyond the expiration of his tourist visa. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial of the petition, finding that the U.S. was TCG’s habitual residence so that mother’s retention of the child was not wrongful. The acclimatization standard was “of limited utility” in TCG’s case, because of TCG’s age, but the court noted that TCG was “comfortable and settled” in his aunt’s home. The parental-intent standard was more appropriate in TCG’s case. Although father testified that he had always intended to return TCG to Colombia, the court found no evidence of any such plan. View "Vasquez v. Acevedo" on Justia Law

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Lopez was charged with possessing a firearm as an alien “illegally or unlawfully in the United States,” 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(5)(A). The district court thought that section 922(g)(5)(A) as applied to Lopez was unconstitutionally vague in light of administrative guidance from the Department of Homeland Security, giving “prosecutorial discretion” as to certain (DACA) aliens who had entered this country without authorization as children. Lopez, along with his family, entered the U.S. without authorization when he was four years old and had obtained deferred action under DACA in 2017. Lopez was arrested for DUI and officers found a 9mm pistol and a 12-gauge shotgun in his vehicle. The Sixth Circuit reversed, rejecting his argument that once he was granted relief under DACA, Lopez was “lawfully present” in the United States. The Secretary’s grant of deferred action under DACA, therefore, did not, and could not, change Lopez’s status as an alien “illegally or unlawfully in the United States” for purposes of section 922(g)(5)(A). That relief represented only the Secretary’s decision temporarily not to prosecute him for that status. View "United States v. Lopez" on Justia Law

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Pablo, born in 1985, speaks the Mam language and minimal Spanish. Pablo fled to the U.S. in 2001 after violent abuse by his stepfather. Pablo paid for legal representation but did not understand the proceedings. In 2009, Pablo was stopped for a traffic violation and deported. Pablo then lived with his grandparents, indigenous farmers. People from another town had beaten his grandparents and destroyed their crops. Pablo joined a committee of indigenous farmers and reported the abuse to the mayor. The police supported the assailants. Pablo was taken to an isolated place and beaten until he passed out. The group threatened to kill Pablo if he continued to fight for land rights. In 2010, Pablo fled to the U.S. He did not contact immigration officials or seek legal assistance. In 2012, Pablo was again deported and found work on a farm. Non-indigenous managers mistreated indigenous workers. Pablo helped form a union to protest the abuse. The owner warned that he would summon police to “show the Indians their place.” During a protest, Pablo was taken to jail and severely beaten. Police stated that Pablo would be sent to his grandparents, where local police would decide whether he lived or died. A human rights organization secured his release. Pablo spent five days in the hospital. Pablo returned to the U.S. He first met with his attorney in July 2016. Pablo did not have any records from his previous proceedings. Pablo filed complaints against his prior “attorneys” and moved to reopen. The Sixth Circuit reversed the denial of relief and remanded to the BIA to reconsider whether Pablo demonstrated changed country conditions under the correct evidentiary and legal standards. The court affirmed the denial of Pablo’s motion based on ineffective assistance because Pablo failed to demonstrate due diligence. View "Lorenzo v. Barr" on Justia Law

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In 2012, K.H., a Guatemalan citizen, then seven years old, was kidnapped, beaten, and raped by gang members. The Guatemalan police caught K.H.’s persecutors, who were tried, convicted, and sentenced. The government provided K.H. with psychological treatment, temporarily placed her in a child refuge center, helped her with a visa application, and required that K.H. and her grandmother relocate. Shortly thereafter, while her visa application was pending, K.H. fled to the United States, where her mother was living. K.H. was apprehended by immigration authorities at the U.S.-Mexico border in 2014. The Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed the denial of her applications for asylum and humanitarian asylum because she failed to demonstrate that the Guatemalan government was unwilling or unable to control her persecutors and protect her. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, concluding that substantial evidence supported the BIA’s determination. The court noted the government’s timely intervention and the arrests, prosecution, conviction, and sentencing of K.H.’s persecutors, as well as the steps taken by the to protect K.H. K.H. did not suffer past persecution, so her claim for humanitarian asylum must fail. View "K. H. v. Barr" on Justia Law

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Cruz, a native of El Salvador, grew up in a neighborhood dominated by the 18th Street gang. A rival gang, MS-13, sought to recruit Cruz and his friends as “spies” to relay information about 18th Street activities. After they refused, MS-13 threatened and assaulted them. MS-13 members murdered Cruz’s friend. Later that week, one of them told Cruz “if [he] was just as stupid as Brian, then the same thing would happen.” Cruz fled El Salvador and was apprehended near Hidalgo, Texas. In his deportation proceeding, Cruz sought asylum based on his fear of gang violence if he returned home. While his asylum application was pending, MS-13 killed one of Cruz’s friend, while 18th Street killed another. Both gangs extorted protection money from Cruz’s mother. When she missed a payment, 18th Street members broke into her house, beat her, and threatened to rape Cruz’s sister. While the Immigration Judge found Cruz’s testimony credible, she denied Cruz’s asylum application because Cruz failed to establish that he faced this persecution “on account of” a protected ground (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(42)(A)). The BIA affirmed. The Sixth Circuit denied a petition for review. Cruz did not establish a connection between his “well-founded fear of persecution” and his membership in a particular social group. View "Cruz-Guzman v. Barr" on Justia Law

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Asgari came to the U.S. for education, earning a doctorate in 1997. He returned to Iran and became a professor at Sharif University. His work involves transmission electron microscopy. Asgari traveled to the U.S. in 2011, stating on his visa application that he planned to visit New York, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Los Angeles. He traveled to Cleveland to see an Iranian-American friend at Case Western’s Swagelok Center. They began collaborating. Asgari returned to Iran and obtained another visa for “temp[orary] business[/]pleasure,” identifying his destination as his son’s New York address. He applied for a job at Swagelok. The FBI investigated. The Center’s director stated that Asgari was on a sabbatical from Sharif University; that the Center conducted Navy-funded research; and that an opening had emerged on the project. Agent Boggs obtained a warrant to search Asgari’s personal email account for evidence that Asgari made materially false statements in his visa application and that Asgari violated the prohibition on exporting “any goods, technology, or services to Iran.” Based on information uncovered from that 2013 search, the government obtained another warrant to search Asgari’s subsequent emails. Indicted on 13 counts of stealing trade secrets, wire fraud, and visa fraud, Asgari successfully moved to suppress the evidence. The Sixth Circuit reversed, applying the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule. The affidavit was not “so skimpy, so conclusory, that anyone ... would necessarily have known it failed to demonstrate probable cause.” The sanctions on Iran are broad; probable cause is a lenient standard. View "United States v. Asgari" on Justia Law

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Mendoza-Garcia, then 16, came to the U.S. from Guatemala in 2004. In 2011 removal proceedings, he sought asylum and withholding of removal, stating that he was afraid to return to Guatemala because his hometown had been torn apart by violence after a mayoral election won through fraud. His merits hearing was scheduled for November 2017. One week before that hearing, his attorney moved to withdraw, stating that he told Mendoza-Garcia six week earlier about an outstanding obligation related to their 2011 representation agreement. Mendoza-Garcia was unable to pay and requested more time. The IJ informed him that financial difficulty would not justify a continuance. When asked a third time if he objected to his attorney’s withdrawal, Mendoza-Garcia said no. The IJ granted the motion; the attorney left. The hearing proceeded, with interpreters translating from English to Spanish and from Spanish to Aguacateco, Mendoza-Garcia’s indigenous language. Mendoza-Garcia stated, “I don’t fear any person in particular or a group, per se,” but “they made us" "get involved with a group to protect the village,” giving him a gun. He stated that he had been expelled from the village and had “no idea what might happen.” The IJ again refused a continuance. The BIA and Sixth Circuit upheld the denial of relief. Denying a continuance was not irrational, discriminatory, or a departure from established policies. This type of procedural due process claim requires a showing of prejudice; Mendoza-Garcia could not show that his “claims could have supported a different outcome.” View "Mendoza-Garcia v. Barr" on Justia Law

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Santos-Santos, a citizen of Mexico, entered the U.S. without inspection in 1999. In 2000, he and his wife attempted to enter Canada but were denied admission and directed back to Port Huron, where they were questioned. Both admitted to entering the U.S. illegally. The Immigration and Naturalization Service personally served Santos-Santos with a notice to appear (NTA), charging him with inadmissibility and ordering him to appear for a hearing in Detroit. The NTA listed his Chicago address and indicated that the hearing date and time were “to be determined.” On May 24, the Detroit immigration court mailed a Notice of Hearing for October 20, to the Chicago address. Santos-Santos failed to appear and was ordered removed in absentia. The order was mailed to the same address. Santos-Santos claims he did not receive that order. In 2018, Santos-Santos moved to reopen the in absentia order, stating he did not receive any notices after the NTA. The BIA upheld the denial of the motion, finding no evidence that the mailings were returned to the immigration court; Santos-Santos did not argue that the notice was addressed incorrectly or that he was having mail delivery problems or report any efforts to determine the status of his proceedings during 17 years before his motion. The Sixth Circuit denied a petition for review. Santos-Santos failed to rebut the presumption of delivery. View "Santos-Santos v. Barr" on Justia Law