Justia U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Immigration Law
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In 2003, 15-year-old Valadez Bonilla entered the U.S. illegally to be with his father. Months later, police charged him with drunk and disorderly conduct. Immigration authorities took custody of Valadez, then released Valadez into the care of his aunt at her home in Lorain, Ohio. Valadez identified that address as the place at which he would be staying. The same day, immigration authorities personally served Valadez with a notice to appear “on a date to be set at a time to be set.” After Valadez’s release, immigration authorities mailed multiple notices about his upcoming removal hearing to his aunt’s address. When Valadez did not appear at his removal hearing, an IJ ordered him removed in his absence. In 2008, Valadez was removed to Mexico after he was stopped for speeding while driving without a license. Valadez illegally reentered this country many times. In 2019, after the government charged him with illegal reentry, Valadez sought to rescind his earlier removal order, claiming that he had not received notice of his hearing. The BIA found that Valadez failed to prove the lack of notice, relying on his long delay in seeking to rescind the removal order after he learned of it. The Sixth Circuit denied Valadez’s petition for review. The BIA could reasonably conclude that Valadez did receive notice in conformity with all requirements in 8 U.S.C. 1229(a)(1) and (2). View "Valadez-Lara v. Barr" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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Garcia illegally entered the U.S. days before his eighteenth birthday and was found to be an “unaccompanied alien child.” Over a year later, Garcia applied for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture, claiming that he had been threatened by gangs in El Salvador. Based on his purported status as an “unaccompanied alien child,” he sought relief from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. An immigration judge (IJ) took jurisdiction over his case and denied his claims for relief. The Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed but remanded so that the IJ could determine whether to continue removal proceedings while Garcia pursued adjustment of status. The IJ denied the continuance. The Board affirmed. The Sixth Circuit denied Garcia’s motion for a stay of removal. Garcia has been removed The Sixth Circuit denied a petition for review, rejecting a challenge to the IJ’s jurisdiction. Garcia cited 8 U.S.C. 1158(b)(3)(C), which provides that USCIS “shall have initial jurisdiction over any asylum application filed by an unaccompanied alien child.” The provision requires that the alien be an “unaccompanied alien child” when he applies for asylum; it is not enough that the alien was an “unaccompanied alien child” when he first entered the U.S. In considering Garcia’s CAT application, the IJ applied the correct legal standard: that torture includes cases in which public officials show “willful blindness” to private torture. View "Garcia v. Barr" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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Perez-Rodriguez, a citizen of Mexico, was ordered removed in June 2016. He reentered the country days later and was arrested and convicted under 18 U.S.C. 1546 for reentry after deportation and false personation in immigration matters. He was sentenced to time served (140 days) and removed again in December 2016. In June 2018, Perez-Rodriguez was arrested in Ohio on a failure to appear warrant for child endangering. He pled guilty to illegal reentry, Perez-Rodriguez had one prior conviction in 2015 for operating a motor vehicle under the influence (DUI), for which he received probation. Based on this criminal history, his prior count of reentry, and his acceptance of responsibility, Pretrial Services recommended a Guidelines range of 8-14 months' imprisonment. The district court entered a sentence of 24 months, noting Perez-Rodriguez’s DUI conviction, that he “apparently violated his probation,” and the need to deter individuals who demonstrate “a pattern of continuing to violate our laws.” The Sixth Circuit reversed and remanded for resentencing, finding Perez-Rodriguez’s sentence substantively unreasonable, Perez-Rodriguez had one DUI conviction before his first deportation, and he had not been convicted of anything that would endanger the public since that conviction. Perez-Rodriguez does not exhibit an extensive “pattern” of deportation and reentry nor do his past actions present that ongoing risk of harm to the public. View "United States v. Perez-Rodriguez" on Justia Law

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Maria, a 33-year-old citizen of Guatemala, is a member of a Mayan indigenous group. She never attended school and cannot read or write. Maria lives in Nashville and works at a hotel. Maria is married to Juan who currently resides in Guatemala. They have four children. The older two were born in Guatemala and the younger two were born in the U.S. Huberto, 12, is autistic and cannot speak; he resides with Maria in Nashville. Maria sought asylum and withholding of removal based on domestic violence suffered at the hands of Juan, which arose within the broader context of systemic violence, harassment, and subordination of indigenous Mayan women in Guatemala. The BIA found that Maria articulated a cognizable particular social group and that the harm she suffered rose to the level of past persecution but concluded that the government effectively rebutted her well-founded fear of future persecution. The Sixth Circuit vacated and remanded. The Board’s decision was not supported by substantial evidence; Maria is still a Mayan indigenous woman and remains married to Juan, who will not agree to a divorce unless she cedes custody of her children. Physical separation does not necessarily indicate that a relationship has ended. Maria cannot “reasonably expect the assistance of the government” in controlling Juan, who has violated a restraining order, beat their oldest child, repeatedly threatened to kill Maria or their children, and purchased a gun with the intent to kill her. View "Antonio v. Barr" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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Guzman crossed the border as a teenager in 1998 and has never returned to Mexico. In 2014, Guzman was served with notice of removal proceedings. Guzman applied for asylum, withholding of removal, and relief under the Convention Against Torture. Guzman testified that another family had murdered his father and grandfather; Guzman later suffered physical abuse by his stepfather. No one reported that abuse because of his political position. Guzman testified that he fears returning to Mexico because his stepfather, who still has police connections, would kill him and that the individuals who murdered his relatives would believe that he had come to avenge his father’s death and would try to kill him. The IJ found Guzman “generally credible,” but that his testimony alone was insufficient without corroboration and that Guzman could not establish a well-founded fear of future persecution. The BIA upheld the denials of relief, reasoning that Guzman did not adequately explain why he could not obtain affidavits from his aunt, sister, or mother “since he remains in contact” and that even with adequate corroboration, the persecution “was not based on his membership in [a particular social group].” The Sixth Circuit vacated. Substantial evidence does not support the determinations regarding the unavailability of evidence to corroborate Guzman’s claims. The BIA incorrectly required Guzman to demonstrate that his membership in a particular social group was “at least one central reason” for his persecution. View "Guzman-Vazquez v. Barr" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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Plaintiff’s father is a Pakistani citizen, previously a legal permanent resident, who was removed from the United States. Plaintiff sought a declaration that his father’s removal was unconstitutional as applied to Plaintiff and violated international treaties and a declaration that the interview of Plaintiff and his mother during his father’s removal proceeding was unconstitutional because ICE agents made racially discriminatory comments to Plaintiff and his mother. The district court dismissed Plaintiff’s complaint, finding that it did not have jurisdiction over claims brought under the international treaties, which are not self-executing. The court also stated that it “is well-settled that lawfully removing a parent from the United States does not deprive a United States citizen child of a constitutional right.” The Sixth Circuit affirmed, noting that it had no information about the removal of Plaintiff’s father. Under 8 U.S.C. 1252(b)(9), no federal court has the authority to review” Plaintiff’s father’s order of removal to determine whether Plaintiff’s constitutional rights might render the order of removal invalid; no court would be able to grant the relief that Plaintiff seeks. The court found that it lacked jurisdiction to review a selective enforcement claim brought by Plaintiff on behalf of his father under 8 U.S.C. 1252(g). View "Butt v. Barr" on Justia Law

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Luna-Romero, a citizen of Argentina, entered the U.S. illegally. In removal proceedings, he applied for asylum, 8 U.S.C. 1158(b), withholding of removal, section 1231(b)(3)(A), and protection under the Convention Against Torture. He testified about past abuses in Argentina, noting that during the 1990s he became the spokesperson for an indigenous group and organized protests on its behalf. The police harassed him during these protests, beating him up “half of the time” and detaining him “three or five times.” An officer once struck him with a police baton, resulting in eight stitches in his eyebrow. Apart from the protests, Luna testified that the police had detained him some “57 times” over the years. An immigration judge denied Luna’s application, finding that he had not testified credibly and had provided inconsistent and evasive answers. The Board of Immigration Appeals dismissed his appeal, noting that Luna’s other evidence could not “independently establish” any of his claims for relief. The Sixth Circuit denied his petition for review. Some of the inconsistencies, in isolation, may seem like “small potatoes” but “their cumulative effect is great.” The Board reasonably upheld the adverse credibility determination. That decision combined with a lack of independent evidence bars Luna from obtaining the three types of relief that he seeks View "Luna-Romero v. Barr" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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Lo and Dieng are citizens of Senegal. Lo entered the U.S. in 1997 on a student visa but did not attend the university. Dieng used a false passport to join him in 2003. Their daughter was born in 2006. In 2007, Dieng applied for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture, asserting that her relatives had attempted to subject her to female genital mutilation (FGM) and that, if removed, she and her daughter would be subjected to FGM. Dieng later conceded that, at her age, she was no longer at risk, and that their daughter could stay in the U.S. with relatives. The IJ denied relief. The BIA affirmed, noting that the couple could relocate within Senegal to an area where FGM is not practiced. After their second daughter was born, DHS took action to enforce the removal order. The couple sought to reopen their case, alleging changed conditions. They submitted documents indicating that their relatives intended to perform FGM on Dieng and the girls. The BIA dismissed the petition as untimely, finding the proferred evidence speculative and self-serving and noting that the girls, U.S. citizens, were not subject to removal. The Sixth Circuit denied a petition for review. Even if the evidence were credible, the couple did not establish a well-founded fear of prosecution. The BIA did not abuse its discretion in finding that the family could reasonably relocate to avoid FGM. View "Dieng v. Barr" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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Kada, a Chaldean Christian from Iraq, immigrated with his family at age 12 as Lawful Permanent Residents. Kada was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon and carrying a concealed weapon. Charged with removability, 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(C), Kada was represented by Attorney Kent, who indicated that he would apply for Convention Against Torture (CAT) relief. Kent failed to file Kada’s CAT application or to request an extension. The IJ found Kada removable. Kent moved to reopen, arguing that hospitalizations prevented him from meeting the deadlines. Kent attached his medical records and included Kada’s CAT application and evidence. Kada explained that he had uncles who “disappeared under Saddam Hussein,” and other family members “kidnapped by ISIS,” that he is “completely Americanized,” knowing “little Arabic.” Kada argued that, if he were not tortured as a Chaldean Christian, he would be tortured by Iraqi authorities because of his criminal record and deportee status. The IJ denied Kada’s motion, finding that Kent had failed to establish his incapacity on or shortly before the filing deadline. The BIA denied an appeal. With new counsel, Kada again moved to reopen, arguing ineffective assistance of counsel. Kada was removed. He provided a declaration that, in Iraq, men pointed weapons at him but let him go. Kada has since stayed hidden without access to medication. Kada’s friend reported the incident to the police and perpetrators were apprehended. They confessed that they wanted to kidnap Kada to blackmail his family. The BIA denied Kada’s motion, concluding that Kada had not demonstrated prejudice. The Sixth Circuit vacated. The BIA failed to account for evidence and prior decisions, involving nearly identical circumstances and did not analyze whether Kada showed a reasonable probability that, but for the ineffective assistance, he would have been entitled to remain in the U.S. View "Kada v. Barr" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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The federal government entered final removal orders against about 1,000 Iraqi nationals in 2017, and has detained them or will detain them. Most remain in the U.S. due to diplomatic difficulties preventing their return to Iraq. The district court certified three subclasses: (1) primary class members without individual habeas petitions who are or will be detained by ICE, (2) those in the first subclass who are also subject to final removal orders, and (3) those in the first subclass whose motions to reopen their removal proceedings have been granted and who are being held under a statute mandating their detention. The Sixth Circuit previously vacated two preliminary injunctions, citing lack of jurisdiction under 8 U.S.C. 1252(g) and (f)(1). One prevented the removal of certain Iraqi nationals; another required bond hearings for each class member who had been detained for at least six months. A third injunction requires the government to release all primary subclass members, those in the first subclass, once the government has detained them for six months, no matter the statutory authority under which they were held. The district court concluded that the class members showed that the government was unlikely to repatriate them to Iraq in the reasonably foreseeable future and that the government “acted ignobly.” The Sixth Circuit vacated the injunction. Congress stripped all courts, except the Supreme Court, of jurisdiction to enjoin or restrain the operation of 8 U.S.C. 1221–1232 on a class-wide basis. View "Hamama v. Adducci" on Justia Law