Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Immigration Law
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The diversity-visa program makes as many as 55,000 visas available annually to citizens of countries with low rates of immigration to the United States, 8 U.S.C. 1151(e), 1153(c); the State Department holds a lottery to determine priority. Applicants who qualify, through random selection, for a diversity visa “shall remain eligible to receive such visa only through the end of the specific fiscal year for which they were selected.” The fiscal-year limit has caused many applications to fail; bureaucratic inertia or foul-ups have the same effect as affirmative decisions that applicants are ineligible. The Seventh Circuit held in 2002 held that the fiscal-year limit cannot be extended by judicial order.In March 2020, the State Department stopped processing routine visa applications, including diversity visas. High-priority applications, such as for diplomats, medical emergencies, and medical personnel, continued to be approved. Two presidential orders confirmed the Department’s approach. Fiscal Year 2020 expired.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a suit by applicants whose eligibility had expired. Section 1154(a)(1)(I)(ii)(II) applies regardless of the relief sought; it does not set a time limit for administrative action nor impose any duty on the State Department. It only specifies the consequence of delay: the applicant’s eligibility expires. A court is not authorized to substitute a different consequence. There is no statute authorizing monetary relief for the plaintiffs’ outlays that did not lead to visas. View "Shahi v. United States Department of State" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit granted in part a petition for review from Petitioner in which Petitioner challenged the decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) affirming the immigration judge's (IJ) denial of Petitioner's request for deferral of removal pursuant to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading treatment or Punishment (CAT), holding that the BIA's decision was not supported by substantial evidence.Petitioner, a noncitizen who was granted asylum in 2002, was served with a notice to appear from removal proceedings. The notice alleged that Petitioner was subject to removal from the United States pursuant to 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(2)(A)(i)(II) and 1182(a)(2)(C) based on his prior Massachusetts state law convictions. Ali submitted to the IJ an application for asylum, for withholding of removal, and protection under the CAT, asserting that he was be subject to torture in Somalia. The IJ sustained the charges and ordered Petitioner removed to Somalia. The BIA affirmed. The First Circuit vacated the BIA's order, holding that the BIA did not address Petitioner's contention that the IJ failed to consider relevant evidence concerning the torture that Petitioner would face from private militias and armed criminals, and the failure to consider that evidence was not harmless. View "Ali v. Garland" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit granted a petition for review sought by Petitioner from the denial of Petitioner's application for cancellation of removal and request for voluntary departure, holding that the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) failed to apply clear error review to the immigration judge's (IJ) finding that Petitioner's removal was extreme hardship to Petitioner's father.Petitioner conceded removability but applied for cancellation of removal and for voluntary departure. Petitioner met the statutory prerequisites for each. The IJ took evidence on the discretionary factors and found that Petitioner merited a favorable exercise of administrative discretion. The BIA reversed, concluding that Petitioner merited neither cancellation of removal or voluntary departure. The First Circuit remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that the BIA impermissibly changed the IJ's factual finding that Petitioner's removal was hardship to his father. View "Barros v. Garland" on Justia Law

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In November 2017, Saul Cisneros was charged with two misdemeanor offenses and jailed. The court set Cisneros’s bond at $2,000, and Cisneros’s daughter posted that bond four days later, but the County Sheriff’s Office did not release him. Instead, pursuant to Sheriff Bill Elder’s policies and practices, the Sheriff’s Office notified U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) that the jail had been asked to release Cisneros on bond. ICE then sent the jail a detainer and administrative warrant, requesting that the jail continue to detain Cisneros because ICE suspected that he was removable from the United States. Cisneros was placed on an indefinite “ICE hold,” and remained in detention. During his detention, Cisneros, along with another pretrial detainee, initiated a class action in state court against Sheriff Elder, in his official capacity, for declaratory, injunctive, and mandamus relief. The Colorado Supreme Court granted certiorari to consider whether the appellate court erred in concluding that section 24-10-106(1.5)(b), C.R.S. (2021), of the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act (“CGIA”) did not waive sovereign immunity for intentional torts that result from the operation of a jail for claimants who were incarcerated but not convicted. The Supreme Court concluded section 24-10-106(1.5)(b) waived immunity for such intentional torts. "In reaching this determination, we conclude that the statutory language waiving immunity for 'claimants who are incarcerated but not yet convicted' and who 'can show injury due to negligence' sets a floor, not a ceiling. To hold otherwise would mean that a pre-conviction claimant could recover for injuries resulting from the negligent operation of a jail but not for injuries resulting from the intentionally tortious operation of the same jail, an absurd result that we cannot countenance." Accordingly, the judgment of the division below was reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings. View "Cisneros v. Elder" on Justia Law

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The Secretary of Homeland Security’s 2021 Guidance notes that the Department lacks the resources to apprehend and remove all of the more than 11 million removable noncitizens in the country and prioritizes apprehension and removal of noncitizens who are threats to “our national security, public safety, and border security.” “Whether a noncitizen poses a current threat to public safety,” the Guidance says, “requires an assessment of the individual and the totality of the facts and circumstances.” The Guidance lists aggravating and mitigating factors that immigration officers should consider and does not “compel an action to be taken or not taken,” and “is not intended to, does not, and may not be relied upon to create any right or benefit.”In a suit by Arizona, Montana, and Ohio, the district court issued a “nationwide preliminary injunction,” blocking the Department from relying on the Guidance priorities and policies in making detention, arrest, and removal decisions. The Sixth Circuit granted a stay pending appeal. The court noted “many dubious justiciability questions” with respect to standing. The Guidance leaves considerable implementation discretion and does not create any legal rights for noncitizens, suggesting it is not reviewable. The preliminary injunction likely causes irreparable harm to the Department by interfering with its authority to exercise enforcement discretion and allocate resources toward this administration’s priorities. A stay pending appeal should not substantially injure the three states. View "Arizona v. Biden" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff entered the United States in 2014 when he was apprehended by border patrol agents before eventually being released to his older brother (a resident of North Carolina).On or shortly before his eighteenth birthday, Plaintiff filed an application for special immigrant juvenile (SIJ) status with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). SIJ status provides certain protections against removal under 8 U.S.C. Sec. 1255 and can lead to lawful permanent residency and citizenship. USCIS issued Plaintiff a Notice of Intent to Deny his SIJ application and Plaintiff appealed to the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO), which upheld the denial. Plaintiff then filed a complaint in district court seeking review of the agency’s denial of his SIJ applicationOn rehearing en banc, the court reversed the judgment of the district court and remanded with instructions to grant Plaintiff’s motion to set aside USCIS’s denial of SIJ status. Following his victory before the en banc court, Plaintiff sought to recover attorney’s fees and expenses under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA). The district court denied Plaintiff’s EAJA application, finding the government’s position was “substantially justified.” The Fourth Circuit reasoned that "this was a tough case" involving reasonable arguments on both sides. Thus, the court affirmed the district court’s ruling finding the government’s position was substantially justified. View "Felipe Perez v. Ur Jaddou" on Justia Law

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Defendants-Appellants the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”), the United States Department of State (“DOS”), and the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) appealed from three orders of the district court for the Southern District of New York requiring they produce certain documents in response to FOIA requests filed by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University (“Knight”). The court reasoned that FOIA is premised on “a policy strongly favoring public disclosure of information in the possession of federal agencies.” Halpern v. F.B.I., 181 F.3d 279 (2d Cir. 1999). However, in some circumstances, Congress determined that other interests outweigh the need for transparency. These circumstances are embodied by a limited set of four statutory exemptions from FOIA’s disclosure requirements.Here, the court found that DOS established that the document includes specific guidance to DOS employees on detecting ties to terrorism. Thus, DOS and USCIS properly withheld the first two sets of documents under FOIA Exemption 7(E). However, the court remanded on the ICE issue because the record was unclear regarding whether ICE complied fully with the district court’s order. View "Knight v. USCIS et al." on Justia Law

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The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan (the ACLU) filed a complaint against the Calhoun County Jail and Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office (the CCSO), alleging CCSO violated Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) when it denied the ACLU’s request for documents. The ACLU sought disclosure of all records related to the December 2018 detention of United States citizen Jilmar Benigno Ramos-Gomez. Ramos-Gomez’s three-day detention at the Calhoun County Correctional Facility occurred pursuant to an Intergovernmental Service Agreement executed between United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the jail. The CCSO denied the ACLU’s request, asserting that the requested records were exempt from disclosure under MCL 15.243(1)(d) because they related to an ICE detainee. The Court of Appeals affirmed dismissal, finding the records at issue were exempt public records from disclosure under the statute. The Michigan Supreme Court reversed the appellate court, finding error in that court holding a federal regulation had the legal force of a federal statute; "federal regulation is not a federal statute." The case was remanded to the circuit court for further proceedings. View "American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan v. Calhoun County" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Kelly Gonzalez Aguilar was a transgender woman from Honduras. She came to the United States and applied for asylum, withholding of removal, and deferral of removal. In support, Kelly claimed she had been persecuted by family, feared further persecution from pervasive discrimination and violence against transgender women in Honduras, and would likely be tortured if she returned to Honduras. In denying asylum, an immigration judge found no pattern or practice of persecution. Kelly appealed the denial of each application, and the Board of Immigration Appeals dismissed the appeal. The dismissal led Kelly to petition for judicial review to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, which granted the petition. "On the asylum claim, any reasonable adjudicator would be compelled to find a pattern or practice of persecution against transgender women in Honduras." View "Gonzalez Aguilar v. Garland" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit denied Petitioner's petition for review of a final order of removal issued by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), holding that the immigration judge (IJ) and BIA properly concluded that Petitioner's Massachusetts conviction for accessory after the fact rendered him removable as an aggravated felon.The U.S. Department of Homeland Security initiated removal proceedings against Petitioner. An IJ held that Petitioner was removable under the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii) for having committed an aggravated felony, as defined under 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(43). As relevant to this appeal, the IJ held that Petitioner's Massachusetts accessory-after-the-fact conviction was categorically an offense relating to obstruction of justice and so was a proper ground for removal as an aggravated felony. The BIA denied Petitioner's appeal. The First Circuit denied Petitioner's petition for review, holding that the BIA did not err in determining that Petitioner's Massachusetts conviction rendered him ineligible for withholding of removal. View "Silva v. Garland" on Justia Law