Justia Immigration Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
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Petitioner Tojiddin Berdiev faced immigration removal proceedings since 2007. After more than a decade of petitions, motions, and appeals, the Board of Immigration Appeals denied Berdiev’s untimely motion to reopen removal proceedings (Berdiev’s second motion), then denied Berdiev’s motion to reconsider. In each of its two orders, the Board held that: (1) Berdiev was not entitled to equitable tolling of his untimely motion to reopen; and (2) exercise of the Board’s sua sponte reopening authority was unwarranted. Berdiev argued to the Tenth Circuit that the Board abused its discretion in making the first determination and relied on an erroneous legal premise in making the second. On equitable tolling, the Court concluded the Board did not abuse its discretion. On the exercise of the Board’s sua sponte reopening authority, however, the Court concluded the Board at least partly relied on a legally erroneous rationale; the Court could not determine whether the Board would have reached the same outcome independently based solely on valid reasons. Accordingly, the Court granted Berdiev’s petitions for review, vacated the Board’s two orders solely as to the sua sponte reopening decision, and remanded to the Board to reconsider that decision. View "Berdiev v. Garland" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Victor Zarate-Alvarez, a native and citizen of Mexico, sought review of a Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) decision denying his application for cancellation of removal. Zarate pleaded guilty to knowing or reckless child abuse in violation of Colorado law. Several years later, the Department of Homeland Security initiated removal proceedings, charging him with removability under 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(6)(A)(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) because he was present without having been admitted or paroled. Zarate conceded removability and filed an application for cancellation of removal under 8 U.S.C. 1229b(b). After a hearing, an Immigration Judge (IJ) denied the application, concluding that Zarate was ineligible for cancellation under section 1229b(b)(l)(C) because his state child abuse conviction constituted “a crime of child abuse, child neglect, or child abandonment” within the meaning of 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(E)(i). The BIA agreed with the IJ’s determination and dismissed Zarate’s appeal. Challenging the Board's decisions, Zarate argued: (1) the BIA’s most recent interpretations of section 1227(a)(2)(E)(i) were not entitled to deference; and (2) his state conviction was not a categorical match to a “crime of child abuse” as defined by the Board. The Tenth Circuit rejected both arguments and affirmed the Board. View "Zarate-Alvarez v. Garland" on Justia Law

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Petitioners Ana Orellana-Recinos and her son, Kevin Rosales-Orellana, natives and citizens of El Salvador, sought review of a Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) order dismissing their appeal of an immigration judge's (IJ) dismissal of their applications for asylum. They contended they were persecuted because of their membership in a particular social group: namely, Kevin’s immediate family. Even assuming that Kevin’s immediate family qualified as a particular social group under the Immigration and Nationality Act, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals concluded the BIA properly found that Petitioners were not persecuted “on account of” their membership in that group. In addition, the Court rejected the government’s argument that the Court lacked jurisdiction to review Petitioners’ challenge to the BIA’s decision. View "Orellana-Recinos v. Barr" on Justia Law

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Defendant-Appellant Abiel Perez-Perez pled guilty to being an alien in possession of a firearm. On appeal, he challenged the district court’s failure to advise him of two elements of that offense: (1) the alien was illegally or unlawfully present in the United States; and (2) the alien knew that he was illegally or unlawfully present. The government conceded that the omission of these elements constituted error that was now plain on appeal. The only dispute was whether Perez satisfied the third and fourth prongs of plain-error review. The Tenth Circuit concluded Perez could not satisfy the third prong because he could not show that the error affected his substantial rights. "Although Perez has a credible claim that, at the time of the offense, he did not know he was unlawfully present in the United States, he has failed to show a reasonable probability that he would not have pled guilty but for the district court’s error. This is because the context of Perez’s guilty plea makes clear that he pled guilty to avoid mandatory minimum sentences attached to charges the government dismissed in exchange for the guilty plea. Perez fails to show how the district court’s error impacted that choice, and he thus fails to satisfy the third plain-error prong." View "United States v. Perez-Perez" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Daniel Awuku-Asare appealed a Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) decision to affirmed his removal order. Awuku-Asare entered the country on a nonimmigrant F-1 visa and could lawfully remain in the United States so long as he complied with the conditions of his visa. Relevant here, maintaining an F-1 visa status requires maintaining a full course of study at an approved educational institution. But Awuku-Asare did not comply with this full-course-of-study requirement because he was incarcerated for approximately 13 months for a crime of which he was ultimately acquitted. In an issue of first impression for the Tenth Circuit, Awuku-Asare argued that “the failure to maintain status must be attributable to the nonimmigrant to render him [removable],” and that because of circumstances beyond his control caused the lapse in his status, he was not removable. The Tenth Circuit determined the plain meaning of the relevant statute did not support Awuku-Asare's interpretation, therefore his arguments were rejected and the BIA's decision affirmed. View "Awuku-Asare v. Garland" on Justia Law

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Ethiopian native, petitioner Thewodros Wolie Birhanu petitioned the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals for review of a final order of removal issued by the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”). The BIA dismissed Birhanu’s appeal of the Immigration Judge's (“IJ”) decision finding him removable. The BIA and the IJ found: (1) Birhanu was removable as an alien convicted of two or more crimes involving moral turpitude (“CIMTs”) not arising out of a single scheme of criminal misconduct; (2) he was not entitled to asylum or withholding of removal because his convictions qualified as particularly serious crimes; and (3) he was not entitled to relief under the Convention Against Torture (“CAT”). The Tenth Circuit dismissed Birhanu's claims under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act as unexhausted, and denied the balance of his petition for review on the merits. View "Birhanu v. Wilkinson" on Justia Law

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Ghanian native and citizen, petitioner Joachim Addo appealed when his application for asylum was denied by an immigration judge and the Board of Immigration Appeals. Petitioner was the son of the chief of the Challa tribe. For several years the Challa have been in a land dispute with another tribe, the Atwode. The Atwode tribe was larger than the Challa, but the Challa controlled more land in the Nkwanta district, and in the past they often leased land to the Atwode. Starting in 2005 the Atwode began violating the lease terms and customs. Petitioner’s father instructed the Challa to stop leasing land to the Atwode, and he took the Atwode to court over the land disputes, winning every case. The Atwode responded with violence against the Challa and vowed to eliminate Petitioner’s father and family. This led to several violent incidents perpetrated by the Atwode against Petitioner and other members of his family. Shortly after these attacks, Petitioner and his father agreed that, for his own safety, Petitioner would relinquish his position as heir-apparent to the Challa chiefdom and would move from Nkwanta to Accra, the capital of Ghana. But this did not stop the Atwode, and harassment continued. In January 2017 Petitioner entered the United States. He expressed a fear of returning to Ghana and was granted a credible-fear interview. An asylum officer determined that Petitioner was credible and referred his case to adjudication. At a hearing in June 2017 the IJ determined that Petitioner was removable. Petitioner indicated, however, that he wished to apply for asylum, so the IJ scheduled a hearing to consider the asylum claim. Petitioner filed an application for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture. In the briefs on his petition for review by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, Petitioner challenged the denial of asylum and withholding of removal, arguing that substantial evidence did not support the BIA’s determination that he could successfully avoid future persecution by relocating within Ghana. The Court agreed with Petitioner that the decision on his ability to safely relocate was unsupported by substantial evidence. The petition was granted and the matter remanded to the BIA for further proceedings. View "Addo v. Barr" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs–Appellants were United States citizens or lawful permanent residents who worked as farm laborers. Defendants–Appellees Cervantes Agribusiness and Cervantes Enterprises, Inc. (collectively, Cervantes) were agricultural businesses owned and managed by members of the Cervantes family in southern New Mexico. Plaintiffs brought claims against Cervantes for breach of contract, civil conspiracy, and violations of the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (AWPA), based on Cervantes’s failure to employ them after a labor contractor, allegedly acting on Cervantes’s behalf, recruited them under the H-2A work-visa program of the United States Department of Labor (DOL). The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Cervantes on all claims. After review of the trial court record, the Tenth Circuit reversed the trial court’s ruling on the breach-of-contract and AWPA claims because the evidence, taken in the light most favorable to Plaintiffs, was sufficient to support a finding that the contractor was acting as Cervantes’s agent when it recruited them. But the Court affirmed summary judgment in favor of Cervantes on the conspiracy claim because of the lack of evidence of an agreement between Cervantes and the contractor to engage in unlawful acts. View "Alfaro-Huitron v. WKI Outsourcing Solutions" on Justia Law

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Eseos Igiebor, a citizen and native of Nigeria, entered the United States as a visitor in 1998. He became a lawful permanent resident (“LPR”) in 2004. In 2014, he pleaded guilty to: (1) aggravated identity theft; and (2) conspiracy to commit wire fraud, mail fraud, and bank fraud. He was sentenced to ninety-six months’ imprisonment and ordered to pay restitution. The Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) initiated removal proceedings against Igiebor in 2018. Igiebor conceded removability, but sought deferral of removal pursuant to the Convention Against Torture (“CAT”). He asserted that due to his status as a homosexual, he would be tortured if removed to Nigeria. An immigration judge (“IJ”) concluded Igiebor’s testimony was not credible and found Igiebor failed to show it was more likely than not he would be tortured if returned to Nigeria. The Bureau of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) determined the IJ did not commit clear error in finding Igiebor not credible and, given that adverse credibility determination, the IJ correctly found Igiebor did not carry his burden of proving it was more likely than not he would be tortured if returned to Nigeria. Igiebor petitioned the Tenth Circuit for review, challenging several aspects of the BIA’s decision. After review, the Tenth Circuit concluded Igiebor failed to identify any legal or factual error on the part of the BIA. Thus, the court denied Igiebor’s petition for review. View "Igiebor v. Barr" on Justia Law

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Deivy Romero-Lopez was convicted of illegally reentering the United States after being removed. The crime of illegal reentry begins when a noncitizen returns after removal and continues until he or she is “found” in the United States. The issue this case presented was not that Romero-Lopez was found in the U.S. after removal, but when he was found. The timing matters for his sentence because the Sentencing Commission dramatically increased the guideline ranges for individuals convicted of illegal reentry. The "starting point" for a sentence was the applicable starting guideline range. To determine that range, the district court needed to decide which annual version of the guidelines to use because the Sentencing commission changed the applicable provision in November 2016; the guideline ranges for illegal reentry sharply increased in November 2016. The new version of the guidelines would have applied only if Romero-Lopez's offense ended on or after the date of the change. Focusing on this increase, the parties disagreed over whether Romero-Lopez had been “found” before the change went into effect. The district court concluded that he had been found after the change, triggering the increased guideline range. Finding no reversible error in that conclusion, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "United States v. Romero-Lopez" on Justia Law