Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

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Preçetaj, a citizen of Albania, entered the U.S. without admission in 2000 and filed her first asylum application, averring that “criminal gangs constantly threaten [her] family,” and, “though [her] father is not politically involved, he is a target because he is employed by the highway department.” She attested that she was afraid of being kidnapped and placed into forced prostitution. In 2005, an IJ denied Preçetaj’s application and ordered her removal, finding Preçetaj incredible because her claim “devolved over a period of time.” The BIA affirmed; the Sixth Circuit denied review. In 2012, Preçetaj moved to reopen. The BIA denied the motion. The Sixth Circuit denied review. In 2017, Preçetaj filed another motion to reopen, arguing that “country conditions in Albania have changed . . . since a recent Socialist Party victory at the polls,” and that recently, “her family has been threatened with government persecution” and is a “distinct social group.” Preçetaj appended a psychological report about her children; an updated I-589 Statement; and an affidavit from her expert witness, detailing Albania’s political history and internal violence. The Sixth Circuit remanded the BIA’s denial. The BIA failed to demonstrate that it evaluated or analyzed Preçetaj's evidence but summarily concluded that the evidence was insufficient to demonstrate changed country conditions, without providing a sufficiently detailed analysis for its conclusion. View "Precetaj v. Sessions" on Justia Law

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Rodriguez-Penton moved from Cuba to the U.S. when he was 15. He is a lawful permanent resident. Rodriguez-Penton was indicted for conspiracy to distribute and possess Oxycodone, retained counsel Butler, and initially cooperated but stopped because he feared for his family’s safety. The government offered Rodriguez-Penton plea deals but he entered an open guilty plea. Rodriguez-Penton’s Cuban citizenship arose during the hearing: the court stated that there was no need to review the civil rights one forfeits by pleading guilty; inquired whether, due to Rodriguez-Penton’s citizenship, there would be an early sentencing; and asked about an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer, but did not advise Rodriguez-Penton that pleading guilty might have adverse immigration consequences and sentenced him to a 121-month prison term. Rodriguez-Penton alleges that he learned of the deportation risk after sentencing, during a meeting with his prison counselor. Rodriguez-Penton appealed, represented by Butler, arguing that his plea was not knowing and voluntary. After hearing testimony from Butler and an interpreter, a magistrate concluded that Butler merely told Rodriguez-Penton that he did not have to worry about deportation. Rodriguez-Penton testified unequivocally that he “would not have gone to trial, even if he could not have negotiated a better plea arrangement.” The district court dismissed his 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion. The Sixth Circuit reversed. The legal standard for ineffective assistance of counsel claims has changed in the context of non-citizens faced with criminal charges. Rodriguez-Penton asserted that his decision-making process would have been different if he had been properly advised; the government has not offered any countervailing evidence that Rodriguez-Penton could not have secured a more favorable plea. View "Rodriguez-Penton v. United States" on Justia Law

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A Lebanese citizen, Al-Saka married Hashem, a U.S. citizen, in Beirut in 1999. He entered the U.S. in 2001 as a conditional permanent resident based on his marriage to Hashem continuing for at least two years. Just weeks later, the couple signed a religious divorce. In August 2001, the Lebanese government granted a legal divorce. Two months later, Michigan annulled the marriage at Hashem’s request after finding that “there had been no marital cohabitation.” In 2003, Al-Saka married another woman in Lebanon and took steps to remove the permanent-residence condition. Because he had divorced Hashem, he could not file a joint petition with her, as the law requires, 8 U.S.C. 1186a(c)–(d). He instead claimed that deportation would cause hardship and that he married Hashem in good faith. An UJ found that Al-Saka and Hashem did not marry in good faith, and refused to waive the joint-petition requirement. She rejected his hardship claim on the ground that his family remained in Lebanon. The BIA affirmed. The Sixth Circuit denied Al-Saka’s petition for relief, noting substantial evidence that his first marriage was not in good faith and rejecting a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. View "Al-Saka v. Sessions" on Justia Law

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Raja, a citizen of Pakistan, first entered the U.S. in 1990 without inspection. In 1996, Raja pleaded guilty to possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance and was sentenced to three-23.5 months’ imprisonment. He served 90 days in a Pennsylvania prison. Nonetheless, in 1998, Raja was granted lawful-permanent-resident status. In 2007, Raja traveled to Pakistan to visit his family. Upon his return, he was detained after officials discovered his conviction. Raja admitted to the conviction and to providing a fraudulent Social Security number to the officers at the time of his 1995 arrest. The government initiated removal proceedings under 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(2)(A)(i)(II). An IJ found Raja removable for a controlled-substance offense and ineligible for a waiver of inadmissibility because he had never lawfully adjusted to lawful-permanent-resident status due to his prior conviction. The BIA dismissed Raja’s appeal. The Sixth Circuit denied relief, finding the Pennsylvania statute under which Raja was convicted divisible; the portion of the statute under which he was charged is a categorical match to 21 U.S.C. 1182(a)(2)(A)(i)(II) and is a controlled substance offense under 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(2)(A)(i)(II) under the “modified categorical approach.” View "Raja v. Sessions" on Justia Law

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Petitioner's parents, Sunni Muslims, fled Syria before he was born to escape the al-Assad regime. Petitioner was born in Iraq and lived in Yemen. Petitioner obtained a bachelor’s degree in engineering. In 2011, Petitioner entered Turkey using a Syrian passport, obtained by his father. Petitioner's cousin, Alhaider, a U.S.-born teacher, traveled to Turkey. They became engaged. Petitioner obtained a new passport through his father, who would not divulge how he obtained it. The passport was actually a stolen blank Syrian passport, to which Petitioner’s information was added. Petitioner obtained a fiancé visa, 8 U.S.C. 1184(d), and traveled the U.S. He and Alhaider were married. Petitioner became a conditional permanent resident. DHS learned that Petitioner might have entered the U.S. using a stolen blank passport. Petitioner was charged as removable under 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(1)(A), An IJ granted Petitioner a waiver of removal under 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(1)(H), asylum, and withholding of removal. The BIA affirmed the grant of withholding but concluded that Petitioner was not entitled to asylum or to the waiver. The Sixth Circuit held that the Board unreasonably applied its own binding precedent, which dictates that asylum may not be denied solely due to violations of proper immigration procedures; the danger of persecution should outweigh all but the most egregious countervailing factors. Courts generally lack jurisdiction to review discretionary determinations such as the denial of a waiver but the BIA engaged in de novo review of the IJ’s factual findings, in violation of its regulatory obligation to review those findings only for clear error. View "Hussam F. v. Sessions" on Justia Law

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Shabo immigrated to the U.S. in 1985. In 1992, at the age of 25, he was convicted of an aggravated felony: possession with the intent to deliver 50-225 grams of cocaine. He served 60 months of imprisonment. An immigration judge ordered his removal to Iraq based on his conviction for an aggravated felony and a crime relating to a controlled substance. The BIA denied his appeal. Because the Iraqi government was not issuing travel papers, Shabo remained in the U.S. Iraq began issuing travel papers last year. Shabo moved to reopen his 1998 BIA proceedings to seek protection under the Convention Against Torture, claiming that, as a Chaldean Christian, he faces likely torture in Iraq. He concedes that he is deportable under 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii) and (B)(i). He argued that the circumstances in Iraq have changed considerably since 1997 when the IJ ordered his removal. The BIA found his petition untimely; that the changed-country-conditions exception does not apply to Convention Against Torture applications; and that Shabo had not presented sufficient evidence that he was “more likely than not” to be subject to torture. The Sixth Circuit dismissed his appeal, citing 8 U.S.C. 1252(a)(2)(C): “no court shall have jurisdiction to review any final order of removal against an alien who is removable by reason of having committed a criminal offense covered in section 1182(a)(2) or 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii), (B), (C), or (D)” unless the matter involves constitutional claims or questions of law. View "Shabo v. Sessions" on Justia Law

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Gutierrez, a citizen of Bolivia, has been a U.S. Lawful Permanent Resident since her 1980 admission. In 2012, she pleaded guilty to credit card theft, Virginia Code 18.2-192(1). She had prior convictions for petty larceny and for prescription fraud, DHS initiated removal under 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(ii), based on her convictions for petty larceny and prescription fraud, as crimes involving moral turpitude. Gutierrez applied for cancellation of removal under 8 U.S.C. 1229b(a). DHS argued statutory ineligibility because she had been convicted of an aggravated felony in 2012, triggering 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(43)(G). An IJ concluded that Gutierrez was ineligible for relief. The BIA employed the categorical approach; found Virginia Code 18.2-192(1) overbroad because the statute contained at least one subdivision, under which “a person can be convicted . . . absent proof of an ‘intent to deprive’ the rightful owner of the property.” The BIA then determined that the section was divisible because its subdivisions “criminalize[d] diverse acts, committed with different mental states." The BIA reasoned, given that the evidence that the 8 U.S.C. 1229b(a)(3) “aggravated felony bar ‘may apply’,” applied 8 C.F.R. 1240.8(d) and required Gutierrez to “prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the bar [was] inapplicable.” The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Where an alien was convicted under a divisible criminal statute and the record is inconclusive as to whether the conviction was for an aggravated felony, such inconclusiveness defeats the alien’s eligibility for relief. View "Gutierrez v. Sessions" on Justia Law

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Diaz entered the U.S. in 2002. She was apprehended in 2007 and placed in removal proceedings. At a 2012 hearing, Diaz sought asylum and withholding of removal, claiming that she believed the La Familia drug cartel, would seek revenge for her brother’s refusal to work for them. The IJ found that Diaz’s asylum application untimely, assessed her claim under the higher “clear probability of persecution” standard for withholding of removal, and denied relief, noting that the cartel had not harmed or threatened her or anyone in her family other than her brother. The BIA dismissed an appeal. Diaz was allowed to remain in the U.S. She received work authorization and regularly reported to ICE. In 2017, Diaz learned that her father had been kidnapped by the Knights Templar Mexican cartel and that the kidnappers stated that they were looking for Diaz’s brother. They specifically mentioned Diaz and threatened to hurt family members. Diaz moved to reopen and to stay removal, citing “changed country conditions.” ICE apprehended Diaz outside her home and scheduled her removal. The BIA denied her stay of removal. The Sixth Circuit dismissed her petition for review. Diaz was deported. The BIA then declined to reopen. The Sixth Circuit vacated. The BIA failed to credit the facts in Diaz’s declarations, which undermined its conclusion and abused its discretion in summarily rejecting Diaz’s Convention Against Torture argument that she could not safely relocate internally in Mexico. View "Trujillo Diaz v. Sessions" on Justia Law

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Undercover officers attempting a controlled purchase of methamphetamine arrested Estrada upon finding meth in his pocket and a rifle and ammunition in his car. He pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm by an unlawful user of a controlled substance. Because of this conviction for an aggravated felony, 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(43)(E)(ii), Estrada—a green-card holder—was placed in removal proceedings. Estrada appeared later with counsel, who conceded Estrada’s removability. Noting the unavailability of other relief, the IJ ordered Estrada removed to Mexico. Estrada was deported in 2009. Six years later, law enforcement discovered Estrada in the United States. He was charged with illegal reentry following deportation, 8 U.S.C. 1326(a); (b)(2). Estrada moved to dismiss, by collateral attack on the underlying deportation order, arguing that the IJ violated his due process rights by failing to advise him of the possibility of discretionary relief from removal under section 212(h) and alleging ineffective assistance of counsel. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the denials of Estrada’s motions to dismiss. A defendant charged with unlawful reentry may not challenge the validity of his deportation order unless he demonstrates that: he exhausted administrative remedies; the deportation proceedings improperly deprived him of the opportunity for judicial review; and the entry of the order was fundamentally unfair. Estrada had no constitutionally-protected liberty interest in securing discretionary relief and, therefore, cannot establish that the order was fundamentally unfair. View "United States v. Estrada" on Justia Law

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Mokdad, a naturalized U.S. citizen, sought injunctive relief against the Attorney General, the FBI, and the Director of the Terrorist Screening Center (TSC) based on alleged instances where he was denied boarding on commercial airline flights between the U.S. and his native country, Lebanon. Claiming that his application for redress under the Department of Homeland Security Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (DHS TRIP) was not adequately resolved, he requested that the court order his removal from the No Fly List and any other such list. The Sixth Circuit reversed the district court’s conclusion that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction On remand, TSC re-examined Mokdad’s DHS TRIP request, notified him that he was not on the No Fly List, and issued a declaration that Mokdad is not on the No Fly List and will not be placed back on the list based on the currently available information. The district court dismissed. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Mokdad’s case is moot in light TSC’s declaration. Even if Mokdad has been placed on another watch list, or is experiencing delays as he alleged, Mokdad did not identify any other lists or defendants, precluding effectual relief. If Mokdad believes that he is on another government list, the remedy is to file a new action. View "Mokdad v. Sessions" on Justia Law