Justia U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Immigration 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

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Defendant Alexander Miles appealed the denial of his second petition for a writ of coram nobis. He pleaded guilty in 2009 to submitting a false affidavit in connection with an application for a visa for a 14-year-old girl from Cambodia to whom he was engaged. He already unsuccessfully challenged that judgment in a direct appeal, a motion for relief under 28 U.S.C. 2255, and a previous petition for a writ of coram nobis. The Tenth Circuit affirmed the denial of his second petition because each of its claims for relief either had been raised by Defendant in earlier proceedings and rejected by the Tenth Circuit, or could have been raised in those proceedings and was inexcusably neglected. View "United States v. Miles" on Justia Law

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Lina Thoung emigrated from Cambodia to the United States in 2002 using a fraudulently obtained visa in the name and birthdate of another person. In 2007, she obtained U.S. citizenship and affirmed she had never provided false information to any government official while applying for any immigration benefit. Her fraud was discovered in 2012. She subsequently pleaded guilty to misusing a visa, permit, and other documents to obtain citizenship. As part of her plea agreement, she jointly stipulated to denaturalization under 8 U.S.C. 1451(e) and removal from the United States. Relying on 8 U.S.C. 1228(c)(5), the district court entered an order of removal. Immigration authorities, unable to deport Thoung back to Cambodia, eventually released her subject to an Order of Supervision. Under this order, Thoung could be arrested and deported at any time. Thoung filed a writ of habeas corpus with the district court alleging the court had lacked subject-matter jurisdiction to enter its order of removal. The district court reaffirmed its jurisdiction to order removal and rejected Thoung’s habeas petition. The Tenth Circuit held that, because of the REAL ID Act’s limitations on judicial review, the district court lacked jurisdiction to entertain Thoung’s habeas petition challenging the prior removal order. Because the district court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction and thus lacked power to enter its October 2017 Memorandum and Order, that judgment was vacated. View "Thoung v. United States" on Justia Law

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In 2007, Oscar Almanza-Vigil pleaded guilty in Colorado state court to “selling or distributing” methamphetamine in Colorado, for which he received a four-year prison sentence. In 2009, when the state paroled him, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) initiated expedited removal proceedings against him, declaring that he had committed an aggravated felony. With that designation, he had no right to an administrative hearing before an immigration judge. Within the week, the Department of Homeland Security had issued a final administrative removal order, and ICE agents had sent Almanza-Vigil back across the border to Mexico. Six years later, border-patrol agents found Almanza-Vigil in the New Mexico desert. Charged with illegal reentry, Almanza-Vigil moved to dismiss the indictment by collaterally attacking his previous removal order and arguing, for the first time, that he never committed an aggravated felony. The Tenth Circuit determined Almanza-Vigil’s Colorado felony did not fit the Immigration and Naturalization Act's (INA) definition of an aggravated felony. But the Court also concluded he failed to demonstrate a reasonable likelihood of avoiding removal but for the erroneous classification of his conviction. Therefore, the Court affirmed Almanza-Vigil's conviction. View "United States v. Almanza-Vigil" on Justia Law

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United States Border Patrol agents found Defendant-appellant John Hargrove, his girlfriend Janelle Richter, and Edgar Silvas-Hinojos in the desert near the border between Arizona and New Mexico. They were all in Hargrove’s truck, along with nearly 300 pounds of marijuana and two firearms. Hargrove was charged with: (1) conspiracy to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana; and (2) possession with the intent to distribute 100 kilograms or more of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of marijuana, and aiding and abetting said possession. Hargrove was convicted by jury on both charges and sentenced to sixty months’ imprisonment. On appeal, Hargrove argued: (1) the district court erred in failing to grant him a mistrial after the prosecutor elicited testimony that the district court had previously barred; and (2) the district court erred in failing to grant him safety-valve relief under section 5C1.2 of the United States Sentencing Guidelines. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court in all respects. View "United States v. Hargrove" on Justia Law

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Manuel Chavez-Morales appeared before the district court following his fifth conviction for an illegal reentry offense. At sentencing, he argued that higher wages in the United States motivated his decision to illegally reenter the United States. Focusing heavily on Chavez-Morales’s criminal history and noting that none of the earlier sentences deterred Chavez-Morales from reoffending, the district court imposed an upward variant sentence of thirty-six months’ imprisonment. The district court also imposed a three-year term of supervised release. On appeal, Chavez-Morales challenged the procedural reasonableness of his term of imprisonment. Specifically, he argued the district court did not meaningfully consider his argument that economic opportunities motivated his decision to illegally reenter the United States and thereby mitigated the seriousness of his offense. Furthermore, Chavez-Morales argued the district court committed plain error by imposing a term of supervised release without acknowledging or considering United States Sentencing Guidelines Manual (U.S.S.G.) section 5D1.1(c), which stated a court “ordinarily” should not impose a term of supervised release when “the defendant is a deportable alien who likely will be deported after imprisonment.” The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court. With respect to the prison term, the Court found the transcript of the sentencing hearing established that, on three occasions, the district court addressed the economic motivation argument. As to the imposition of a term of supervised release, while the district court erred by not acknowledging and considering U.S.S.G. 5D1.1(c), Chavez- Morales did not carry his burden on the third prong of the plain error analysis. View "United States v. Chavez-Morales" on Justia Law

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Alejandro Lujan Jimenez petitioned for review a final order of removal and an order by the Bureau of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) declining to sua sponte reopen removal proceedings. Lujan is a native and citizen of Mexico. He first entered the United States as a child sometime in the 1990s. His most recent entry into the United States occurred in May 2004. In January 2007, Lujan pled guilty in Colorado state court to Criminal Trespass of a Motor Vehicle with the Intent to Commit a Crime Therein, and sentenced to 35 days in jail. The Department of Homeland Security filed a notice charging Lujan as removable. He received three continuances of removal proceedings until April 2009 when he conceded removability. Lujan then applied for adjustment of status and cancellation of removal. He obtained four additional continuances of his removal proceedings. Lujan appeared in immigration court on June 5, 2013, and the IJ granted counsel’s motion to withdraw. Lujan stated that he was attempting to obtain new counsel, but proceeded pro se at the hearing. The IJ denied relief, concluding that Lujan was ineligible for adjustment of status based on his immigration history and that he was ineligible for cancellation of removal because he had been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude—his criminal trespass offense in Colorado. Lujan appealed to the BIA, arguing that the IJ’s denial of a continuance violated his right to due process and that his Colorado conviction was not a crime involving moral turpitude. The BIA affirmed the IJ’s ruling. Lujan then filed an untimely petition for review, which was dismissed. The Tenth Circuit determined it lacked jurisdiction over petition number 17-9527: review of the BIA’s decision declining to sua sponte reopen his removal proceedings. The Court has previously held that “we do not have jurisdiction to consider [a] petitioner’s claim that the BIA should have sua sponte reopened the proceedings . . . because there are no standards by which to judge the agency’s exercise of discretion.” View "Lujan-Jimenez v. Sessions" on Justia Law