Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

by
"Immediate relatives” of U.S. Citizens can enter the United States without regard to numerical limitations on immigration. The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, 120 Stat. 587 (AWA) amended the statute so that a citizen “who has been convicted of a specified offense against a minor” may not file any petition on behalf of such relatives “unless the Secretary of Homeland Security, in the Secretary’s sole and unreviewable discretion, determines that the citizen poses no risk to the alien.” The definition of a “specified offense against a minor,” includes “[c]riminal sexual conduct involving a minor, or the use of the Internet to facilitate or attempt such conduct.” U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) memos state that “a petitioner who has been convicted of a specified offense against a minor must submit evidence of rehabilitation and any other relevant evidence that clearly demonstrates, beyond any reasonable doubt," that he poses no risk and that “approval recommendations should be rare.” In 2004, Bakran, a U.S. citizen, was convicted of aggravated indecent assault and unlawful contact with a minor. In 2012, Bakran married an adult Indian national and sought lawful permanent resident status for her. USCIS denied his application citing AWA. Bakran claimed violations of the Constitution and Administrative Procedures Act, 5 U.S.C. 701. The Third Circuit held that the protocols Bakran challenged simply guide the Secretary’s determination; courts lack jurisdiction to review them. The AWA does not infringe Bakran’s marriage right but deprives him of an immigration benefit to which he has no constitutional right. The Act is aimed at providing prospective protection and is not impermissibly retroactive. View "Bakran v. Secretary, United States Department of Homeland Security" on Justia Law

by
S.E.R.L., a native of Honduras, fled to the U.S. in 2014 and unsuccessfully sought asylum and statutory withholding of removal based on membership in a proposed particular social group “immediate family members of Honduran women unable to leave a domestic relationship.” She fears persecution by Angel, who abducted, raped, and continues to stalk S.E.R.L.’s daughter, who has already been granted asylum. Orellana, S.E.R.L.’s stepfather, has repeatedly abused S.E.R.L.’s mother. An immigration judge found S.E.R.L. credible but concluded that S.E.R.L. had not met her burden to establish eligibility for relief. The IJ reasoned that Angel had targeted S.E.R.L.’s daughter, not her and that “her stepfather never physically harmed her.” The IJ stated that any harm she suffered was not on account of a protected ground; her proposed group “lack[ed] the requisite level of particularity and social distinction” under 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(42). The BIA dismissed an appeal. The Third Circuit denied a petition for review, citing the BIA’s three-part test for proving the existence of a cognizable particular social group, which requires applicants to establish that the group [at issue] is composed of members who share a common immutable characteristic, defined with particularity, and socially distinct within the society in question. That interpretation is entitled to Chevron deference. Substantial evidence supports the BIA’s determination that S.E.R.L. has not met its requirements. View "S.E.R.L. v. Attorney General United States" on Justia Law

by
Mothers and children fled violence perpetrated by gangs in Honduras and El Salvador and were apprehended near the U.S. border. They were moved to a Pennsylvania detention center. Immigration officers determined that they were inadmissible. They were ordered expeditiously removed, 8 U.S.C. 1225(b)(1), and unsuccessfully requested asylum. They sought habeas relief, claiming that Asylum Officers and IJs violated their constitutional and statutory rights in conducting the “credible fear” interviews. The Third Circuit initially affirmed the dismissal of the claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The court held that, while the Suspension Clause of the Constitution would allow an aggrieved party with sufficient ties to the U.S. to challenge that lack of jurisdiction, the petitioners’ relationship to the U.S. amounted only to presence for a few hours before their apprehension. The children were subsequently accorded Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) status—a classification intended to safeguard abused, abandoned, or neglected alien children who are able to meet rigorous eligibility requirements. The Third Circuit then reversed the dismissal, noting that protections afforded to SIJ children include eligibility for application of adjustment of status to that of lawful permanent residents, exemption from various grounds of inadmissibility, and procedural protections to ensure their status is not revoked without good cause. The jurisdiction-stripping provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act is an unconstitutional suspension of the writ of habeas corpus as applied to SIJ designees seeking judicial review of expedited removal orders. View "Osorio-Martinez v. Attorney General United States" on Justia Law

by
Bonilla, a citizen of El Salvador, first attempted to enter the U.S. illegally in 2010 and was removed but returned. In 2017, Bonilla was arrested and found to be the subject of a removal order. He expressed a fear of persecution or torture if returned to El Salvador. Bonilla first three meetings with an asylum officer ended because Bonilla wanted his attorney present. At the fourth meeting, with his attorney present via telephone, Bonilla stated that he had been extorted by a gang in El Salvador because they thought he received money from his family in the U.S. and had light skin color. They never physically harmed or threatened him and he did not report these incidents to the police. The asylum officer issued a negative reasonable fear determination. Bonilla then appeared before an IJ. Bonilla later declared that he did not request that his attorney be present because he believed his attorney was listening on the phone; his counsel submitted a letter notifying the IJ of counsel’s error in not appearing. The IJ upheld the determination. The Third Circuit denied a petition for review. Bonilla has not shown that the regulations explicitly invested him with a right to counsel at the IJ’s review hearing and Bonilla was not denied the opportunity to obtain the counsel of his choice; his attorney simply failed him. Bonilla has not shown that he suffered prejudice by the absence of his counsel. View "Bonilla v. Attorney General United States" on Justia Law

by
Moreno, a 49-year-old citizen of Argentina, was admitted to the U.S. under a grant of humanitarian parole in 1980. In 2015, Moreno pleaded guilty to one count of possession of child pornography under Pennsylvania’s “Sexual abuse of children” statute and was sentenced to five years of probation and required to register as a sex offender. DHS initiated removal proceedings in 2016, charging Moreno as removable for having been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude under 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(2)(A)(i)(I). The Immigration Judge ordered him removed; the Board of Immigration Appeals rejected Moreno’s appeal. The Third Circuit denied his petition for review, rejecting Moreno’s argument that, under the categorical approach, the least culpable conduct hypothetically necessary to sustain a conviction under the statute of his conviction is not morally turpitudinous. Pennsylvania’s Pennsylvania’s community consensus, as gauged by case law and legislative enactments, condemns the least culpable conduct punishable under the statute as morally turpitudinous. View "Moreno v. Attorney General United States" on Justia Law

by
Lewin, a citizen of Jamaica, was admitted to the U.S. in 1987 as a legal permanent resident. In 2000, Lewin was convicted of receiving stolen property in the third degree, N.J. Stat. 2C:20-7(a), and was sentenced to five years of probation. Seven years later, following a finding that he violated the terms of his probation, Lewin was resentenced to four years of imprisonment. Another seven years later, Lewin was charged as removable under 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(ii)(iii). An Immigration Judge concluded that Lewin is removable for having been convicted of an aggravated felony under section 1101(a)(43)(G), based on his 2000 conviction for receipt of stolen property and later resentencing and that the conviction barred him from relief in the form of cancellation of removal. The Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed. The Third Circuit denied Lewin’s petition for review, applying the categorical approach element-by-element analysis to determine whether Lewin’s New Jersey receiving stolen property conviction “fit” the generic definition of receiving stolen property under section 1101(a)(43)(G). On its face, the New Jersey statute’s language, “knowing that [the property] has been stolen, or believing that it is probably stolen,” refers to a specific defendant’s knowledge or belief, and that element must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. View "Lewin v. Attorney General United States" on Justia Law

by
Mondragon-Gonzalez was admitted to the U.S. in 2008 on an immigrant visa. In 2015, he pled guilty under Pennsylvania law, which provides: A person commits an offense if he is intentionally in contact with a minor" for specified purposes. He admitted to sending a girl pictures of his penis and was sentenced to a prison term of eight to 23 months. DHS commenced deportation proceedings. An Immigration Judge found that Mondragon-Gonzalez’s conviction fell within 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(E)(i), which provides that “[a]ny alien who at any time after admission is convicted of . . . a crime of child abuse . . . is deportable.” The BIA dismissed his appeal, comparing the elements of the state conviction and its interpretation of a “crime of child abuse” in Matter of Velazquez-Herrera. The Third Circuit denied a petition for review. Given Congress’ intent to make crimes that harm children deportable offenses, the BIA’s interpretation is not “arbitrary, capricious, or manifestly contrary to the statute. The Pennsylvania law requires intentional contact with a minor for the purpose of engaging in sexual abuse of children; it meets the generic definitional requirement in section 1227(a)(2)(E)(i), that the act constitute maltreatment of a child such that there was a sufficiently high risk of harm to a child’s physical or mental well-being. View "Mondragon-Gonzalez v. Attorney General of the United States" on Justia Law

by
Williams, a citizen of Guyana and a lawful U.S. permanent resident, immigrated to this country in 1970, when he was 13 months old. He has no family in Guyana; his relatives are all U.S. citizens. In 2006, he pleaded guilty to five counts of first-degree forgery under Georgia Code 16-9-1(a). Williams was charged as removable for having been convicted of an aggravated felony, 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii). The IJ denied relief. The Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed, rejecting an argument that the Georgia forgery statute is broader than generic forgery because it criminalizes the use of a fictitious name when signing a document and because the statute does not require a showing of prejudice. The BIA later denied a motion for reconsideration under the Supreme Court’s 2016 "Mathis" decision, arguing that Georgia’s forgery statute is indivisible under Mathis and is overbroad in criminalizing some conduct that does not relate to forgery--false agency endorsements. The Third Circuit denied relief. Employing a “looser categorical approach,” the court considered the “logical connection” between the federal offense the state law and concluded that concerns about the inauthenticity or unauthorized nature of a written instrument establish a logical relationship between common law forgery and false agency endorsement. The intent elements are “directly analogous” and target the “same core criminal conduct.” View "Williams v. Attorney General United States" on Justia Law

by
In the 1990s, as a young teenager, Alimbaev, a citizen of Uzbekistan, attended a few services led by Nazarov, an imam who was accused by the Uzbek government of preaching violence and plotting a government takeover. In 2001, Alimbaev came to the U.S. as a visitor, overstayed his visa, and became involved with other supporters of Nazarov. He is currently married, for the second time, to a U.S. citizen, with whom he has two children. He claims to fear persecution and torture if he is removed to Uzbekistan. His application to extend and change the status of his visa contained numerous misrepresentations. There was testimony that Alimbaev relished watching violent terroristic videos, while apparently harboring anti-American sympathies. After a remand, the Board of Immigration Appeals reversed an IJ’s determination and ordered Alimbaev removed. The Third Circuit again vacated the denial of his applications for adjustment of status, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT), and remanded. The BIA misapplied the clear error standard when reversing the IJ’s finding that Alimbaev’s testimony was credible View "Alimbaev v. Attorney General United States" on Justia Law

by
Mateo, a 21-year-old citizen of the Dominican Republic, was admitted to the U.S. in 2010 as a lawful permanent resident. In 2013, he pleaded guilty to the felony charge of criminal conspiracy for an underlying offense Robbery of a Motor Vehicle. A “person commits a felony of the first degree if he steals or takes a motor vehicle from another person in the presence of that person or any other person in lawful possession of the motor vehicle.” Mateo was charged as removable as an alien convicted of an aggravated felony under 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A). DHS stated that his conviction constituted an aggravated felony under 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii), and was a “crime of violence” as defined in 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(43)(F), which incorporates 18 U.S.C. 16, which defines “crime of violence” as (a) an offense that has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another, or (b) any other offense that is a felony and that, by its nature, involves a substantial risk that physical force against the person or property of another may be used in the course of committing the offense. The Third Circuit vacated Mateo’s removal order, holding that, in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in Johnson v. United States (2015), section 16(b), as incorporated, is unconstitutionally vague. View "Mateo v. Attorney General United States" on Justia Law