Justia Immigration Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
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Defendant Rodolfo Gonzalez-Fierro, a Mexican citizen, challenged his conviction for unlawfully re-entering the United States after a prior removal. That conviction was based in part on Gonzalez-Fierro’s prior expedited removal from the United States in 2009. Due process required that, before the United States can use a defendant’s prior removal to prove a 8 U.S.C. 1326(a) charge, “there must be some meaningful review” of the prior administrative removal proceeding. In light of that, Congress provided a mechanism in section 1326(d), for a defendant charged with a section 1326(a) offense to challenge the fundamental fairness of his prior unreviewed removal. But, pursuant to 8 U.S.C. 1225(b)(1)(D), the section 1326(d) mechanism applied only to prior formal removal orders, and not to prior expedited removal orders like Gonzalez-Fierro’s. "Expedited removals apply to undocumented aliens apprehended at or near the border soon after unlawfully entering the United States. Different from formal removals, expedited removals are streamlined - generally there is no hearing, no administrative appeal, and no judicial review before an expedited removal order is executed." Applying the Supreme Court’s reasoning in United States v. Mendoza-Lopez, 481 U.S. 828 (1987), the Tenth Circuit concluded section 1225(b)(1)(D) was unconstitutional because it deprives a defendant like Gonzalez-Fierro of due process. Without section 1225(b)(1)(D), the Court reviewed Gonzalez-Fierro's 2009 expedited removal order, and concluded he failed to establish that removal was fundamentally unfair. On that basis, the Court affirmed Gonzalez-Fierro's section 1326(a) conviction. View "United States v. Gonzalez-Fierro" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Alonso Martinez-Perez sought review of a final Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) order that dismissed his appeal, holding that neither the BIA nor the Immigration Court had jurisdiction to grant Petitioner’s application for cancellation of removal. Petitioner was a native and citizen of Mexico. He entered the United States in 2001, without being inspected and admitted or paroled. On April 9, 2009, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) charged him as removable from the United States pursuant to the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) as an alien present in the United States without being admitted or paroled. Immigration officials served Petitioner with a notice to appear, which did not include a date and time for his hearing. One week later, Petitioner received notice of the date and time of his hearing in a separate document. Petitioner, through counsel, admitted the allegations contained in the notice to appear and conceded the charge of removability. The Immigration Judge found Petitioner removable. The Tenth Circuit found the Supreme Court held that a notice to appear that omits the removal proceeding’s time or place does not stop the alien’s accrual of continuous presence in the United States for purposes of cancellation of removal. The requirements of a notice to appear were claim-processing rules; the Court thus concluded the Immigration Court had authority to adjudicate issues pertaining to Petitioner’s removal even though Petitioner’s notice to appear lacked time-and-date information. With respect to issues raised regarding the BIA’s or Immigration Judge’s jurisdiction to grant Petitioner’s application in the absence of establishing a qualifying relative at the time of hearing: the Tenth Circuit concluded that for the BIA to conclude that neither it nor the Immigration Court had jurisdiction to grant Petitioner’s application was error. Moreover, before the BIA, Petitioner alleged and described what he contended was an improper delay on the part of the Immigration Court. Given this case’s procedural history, which is undisputed, the Tenth Circuit concluded it was within the BIA’s jurisdiction to interpret the applicable statutes in a way that would not penalize Petitioner for the Immigration Court’s delay. Because the BIA erred in holding that it lacked jurisdiction to grant Petitioner’s application and, in turn, failed to exercise its interpretive authority, the Court remanded. View "Martinez-Perez v. Barr" on Justia Law

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Defendant-Appellant Petrona Gaspar-Miguel appealed a district court’s affirmance of her conviction for entering the United States. On appeal, she contended the district court’s conclusion that she “entered” the United States even though she was under the constant surveillance of a border patrol agent was contrary to established law defining “entry.” The Tenth Circuit rejected this argument and affirmed the district court. View "United States v. Gaspar-Miguel" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Adama Matumona was a native and citizen of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). He petitioned the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals for review of a Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) decision to deny his application for asylum and withholding of removal. Regarding asylum, Petitioner argued the BIA: (1) erred in determining that he had firmly resettled in Angola, which barred him from applying for asylum; and (2) engaged in improper factfinding in determining he was ineligible for an exception to the firm-resettlement bar. On withholding of removal, he argued the BIA improperly rejected his claims of past persecution and a well-founded fear of future persecution. Furthermore, Petitioner contended his due-process rights and his statutory right to a fair hearing were violated by the failure of the immigration judge (IJ) to adequately develop the record and to implement appropriate safeguards for a pro se litigant detained in a remote facility. After review, the Tenth Circuit affirmed on all issues except that the Court remanded to the BIA to consider Petitioner’s claim that he was entitled to withholding of removal because of the alleged pattern or practice of the DRC government of persecuting persons with Petitioner’s political views. View "Matumona v. Barr" on Justia Law

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In 1991, at age three, petitioner Karen Robles-Garcia was admitted to the United States as a nonimmigrant visitor authorized to remain in this country for up to seventy-two hours and to travel within twenty-five miles of the Mexican border. She stayed longer and traveled further than permitted. In 2008, DHS served Robles-Garcia with a Notice to Appear (“NTA”), the document that the Department of Homeland Security ("DHS") issues an immigrant to initiate removal proceedings, charging her with violating her visitor permissions from almost seventeen years earlier. Robles-Garcia admitted the five factual allegations charged in the NTA and conceded she was removable. But she applied for cancellation of removal and adjustment of her status, asserting that her removal would work an “exceptional and extremely unusual hardship” on her two children, 8 U.S.C. 1229b(b)(1)(D), who were U.S. citizens. Relying on Pereira v. Sessions, 138 S. Ct. 2105 (2018), Robles-Garcia argued for the first time that the immigration judge who initially presided over her removal proceedings never acquired jurisdiction over those proceedings because DHS initiated those proceedings by serving Robles-Garcia with a defective Notice to Appear. Because Robles-Garcia had not yet made that argument to the IJ or the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”), it was unexhausted and the Tenth Circuit determined it lacked jurisdiction to address it. In addition, Robles-Garcia argued the BIA erred in concluding that she was ineligible to apply for discretionary cancellation of removal. The Tenth Circuit upheld that determination because Robles-Garcia was unable to show that a theft conviction was not a disqualifying crime involving moral turpitude. The Court therefore denied Robles-Garcia’s petition for review challenging the BIA’s determination that she was ineligible for cancellation of removal, and dismissed the petition for lack of jurisdiction to the extent that it asserted the Pereira question. View "Robles-Garcia v. Barr" on Justia Law

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In removal proceedings, petitioner Sandra Lopez-Munoz appeared and requested cancellation of removal, but the immigration judge declined the request. Petitioner unsuccessfully appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals, moved for the Board to reopen her case, petitioned for review to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, moved a second time for the Board to reopen her case, and moved for reconsideration of the denial of her second motion to reopen. The removal proceedings began with the service of a notice to appear. But because the notice to appear failed to include a date and time for her impending immigration hearing, petitioner argued the immigration judge lacked jurisdiction over the removal proceedings. If petitioner was correct, the Tenth Circuit concluded she might be entitled to relief based on the immigration judge’s lack of jurisdiction to order removal. In the Court’s view, however, the alleged defect would not preclude jurisdiction. It thus denied the petition for review. View "Lopez-Munoz v. Barr" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Santos Raul Escobar-Hernandez has filed a petition for review of the Board of Immigration Appeals’ decision affirming the immigration judge’s denial of his application for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT). The petition’s underlying facts rest on Petitioner’s testimony, which the immigration judge found to be credible. Petitioner is a native and citizen of El Salvador and entered the United States without a valid entry document. He fled El Salvador after he was assaulted by two men, resulting in injuries requiring medical treatment. The assault occurred when the men, one named "Nelson," noticed some graffiti critical of a political party on a fence near Petitioner’s home. Although Petitioner was not politically active and told the men he did not paint the graffiti, Nelson said Petitioner was responsible for it because it was on his house and demanded he remove it. When Petitioner responded that he could not pay for removal, the men hit him and threatened to kill him. Petitioner was unsure if the men assaulted him because of the political graffiti or if they used it as an excuse to assault him merely because he was a vulnerable youth. Petitioner later removed the graffiti, but Nelson attacked him twice more and continued to threaten him. Reports to local police went ignored; Petitioner averred he feared returning to his home town because of the threats, and he feared relocating elsewhere in El Salvador because other people could hurt him. In his petition for review, Petitioner contends the BIA should have granted him asylum and withheld his removal because he suffered past persecution and has a well- founded fear of suffering future persecution based on political opinions Nelson imputed to him. Petitioner also argues the BIA should have granted him protection under CAT because, if he returns to El Salvador, Nelson will likely torture him with the acquiescence of law enforcement. On the record before it, the Tenth Circuit could not say any reasonable adjudicator would be compelled to reach conclusions contrary to those reached by BIA. The Court therefore affirmed denial of asylum and protection under CAT. View "Escobar-Hernandez v. Barr" on Justia Law

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Five Peruvian shepherds who worked in the Western United States pursuant to H-2A agricultural visas brought antitrust claims, on behalf of themselves and similarly situated classes of shepherds, against several sheep ranchers (the “Rancher Defendants”), two associations (the “Association Defendants”), and Dennis Richins (referred to collectively as the “Defendants”). The Shepherds alleged the Defendants “conspired and agreed to fix wages offered and paid to shepherds at the minimum DOL wage floor.” The Shepherds also brought class action RICO claims against Richins and the Association Defendants. The RICO claims focused on allegedly false assurances made by the Association Defendants to the federal government that H-2A shepherds were being properly reimbursed for various expenses. The district court dismissed as to both claims, finding the complaint did not plausibly allege an agreement to fix wages, and did not allege the existence of enterprises distinct from the persons alleged to have engaged in those enterprises. The trial court denied the Shepherds' request to amend their complaint. On appeal, the Shepherds argued there were valid antitrust and RICO claims, and that the district court abused its discretion in denying their motion to amend their complaint. The Tenth Circuit concluded the district court erred in dismissing the RICO claim naming Richins as a defendant. But in all other regards, the district court was affirmed. View "Llacua v. Western Range Association" on Justia Law

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Defendant-Appellant Jose Luis Eliseo Arias-Quijada entered a conditional guilty plea to illegal reentry into the United States. He reserved the right to appeal the district court’s denial of his Motion to Assert a Defense of Duress. In this appeal, Arias-Quijada challenged the denial of his motion, arguing he presented sufficient evidence to create a triable issue on the affirmative defense of duress. He specifically challenged the district court’s conclusion that he failed to make a bona fide effort to surrender to immigration authorities once the alleged duress lost its coercive force. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court's order denying Arias-Quijada's motion. View "United States v. Arias-Quijada" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Homaidan Al-Turki was a citizen of Saudi Arabia, sentenced by a Colorado state court to a term of eight years to life. He wished to serve the remainder of his time in prison in his home country. A treaty permitted this, but required approval of the State, the federal government, and the foreign nation. Plaintiff alleged he received approval from the proper state official but Defendants (several state and federal officials) then provided false derogatory information to the State that caused it to revoke its approval. He filed suit in the federal district court contending Defendants had violated his right to procedural due process under the federal Constitution by not providing him a hearing to clear his name before revoking the approval. He sought an injunction requiring he be granted a judicial hearing to clear his name and that Defendants not repeat the false allegations against him. Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim, and the district court granted the motion. After review, the Tenth Circuit concurred: “The stigma that results from defamation by public officials is alone insufficient to implicate procedural due process; the defamation must also have caused an alteration in the plaintiff’s legal status—that is, there must be ‘stigma plus.’ But Plaintiff has not adequately alleged a plus factor here, because he suffered no change in legal status as a result of Defendants’ alleged stigmatizing comments. Therefore, constitutional due process did not require that he be granted a hearing before the State’s final decision against his transfer to a prison in Saudi Arabia.” View "Al-Turki v. Tomsic" on Justia Law