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

Articles Posted in Immigration Law
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Petitioner Hugo Abisai Monsalvo Velazquez petitioned for review of a Board of Immigration Appeals’ (BIA) denial of his motion for reconsideration of the BIA’s dismissal of his motion to reopen proceedings. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals denied review because Velazquez failed to voluntarily depart or file an administrative motion within 60 calendar days, the maximum period provided by statute. 8 U.S.C. § 1229c(b)(2). View "Monsalvo Velazquez v. Garland" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Angel Aguayo filed a motion to terminate his removal proceedings, contending his state detention and transfer to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody was unlawful. Aguayo was a native and citizen of Mexico. In 1992, he entered the United States unlawfully. For over twenty-five years, Aguayo and his wife lived in Utah and raised four children. In March 2018, Aguayo’s daughter - a United States citizen - filed a visa petition on her father’s behalf. After U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approved the visa petition, Aguayo lawfully remained in Utah and applied to become a legal permanent resident. In 2019, state law enforcement officers arrested Aguayo in Springville, Utah. He was later charged with two counts of possession of a forged document, use or possession of drug paraphernalia, and having an open container in a vehicle. At the time of his arrest, Aguayo also had pending misdemeanor state charges for issuing a bad check, shoplifting, possession or use of a controlled substance, and use or possession of drug paraphernalia. Aguayo was detained at the Utah County Jail. The day after his arrest, agents from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) encountered Aguayo during a routine jail check. DHS then issued an immigration detainer (an “ICE hold”) for Aguayo. He remained at the Utah County Jail for about five months. In June 2019, Aguayo pled guilty to some of the pending state charges. He was sentenced to thirty days in the county jail. He would be later sentenced to 364 days’ imprisonment on the forgery convictions, and an indeterminate term of imprisonment not to exceed five years on the bad check conviction. DHS initiated removal proceedings; Aguayo contested his removability. The Tenth Circuit denied Aguayo's petition: he did not show he was prejudiced—under any applicable standard—by the denial of his motion to terminate removal proceedings. View "Aguayo v. Garland" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Dennis Arostegui-Maldonado, a citizen of Costa Rica and El Salvador, was removed from the United States in 2008. In 2021, he reentered. The Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) reinstated his removal order. Arostegui-Maldonado told an asylum officer that he feared persecution or torture in Costa Rica and El Salvador. The officer referred his case to an Immigration Judge (“IJ”) for “withholding-only proceedings” to decide whether to forbid his removal to those countries. The IJ denied relief. The Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) affirmed. Arostegui-Maldonado challenged the agency’s rulings on the merits, arguing: (1) the IJ misapplied the “under color of law” element to his Convention Against Torture (“CAT”) claim; (2) the BIA ignored his CAT claim; (3) the IJ failed to fully develop the record; and (4) the IJ and the BIA violated his due process rights. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Arostegui-Maldonado that the IJ misapplied “under color of law” to his CAT claim, and granted the petition on that ground. The Court otherwise denied the petition and remanded for further proceedings. View "Arostegui-Maldonado v. Garland" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Sarah Farum filed a frivolous asylum application. An immigration judge determined the application rendered her permanently ineligible for immigration benefits under the Immigration and Nationality Act. Farnum did not challenge the frivolousness finding made by the immigration judge, nor did she challenge she had proper notice of the consequences of filing a false application. She instead challenged the timing of when the frivolous-asylum bar was effective. In her view, the frivolous-application bar outlined in 8 U.S.C. § 1158(d)(6) could not be invoked in the same proceeding as a frivolousness finding was made, thus allowing an immigration court to consider other potential claims that might support a finding that the Attorney General should withhold her deportation. To this, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed: "Once an immigration judge or the Board of Immigration Appeals makes the required frivolousness finding, the statutory bar is effective." View "Farnum v. Garland" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Agnes Mukantagara, and her son, Plaintiff Ebenezer Shyaka, challenged an unfavorable United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) decision on refugee status. Meanwhile, the government began separate removal proceedings. Plaintiffs filed this suit in the United States District Court for the District of Utah seeking judicial review of the termination of their refugee status. Defendants moved to dismiss, contending that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because the agency action was not final and because of the jurisdiction-stripping provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act. In the district court’s view, the regulation implementing the Immigration and Nationality Act’s provision allowing for the termination of refugee status, 8 C.F.R § 207.9, constitutes a triggering event that “arises from” an action taken to remove an alien. The district court said Plaintiffs’ claims fell within the scope of 8 U.S.C. § 1252(b)(9) because they challenged the decision “to seek removal.” The district court dismissed the action, concluding that it lacked jurisdiction. But the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals determined the district court read the statute too expansively. “Congress did not intend the zipper clause 'to cut off claims that have a tangential relationship with pending removal proceedings.' ... the regulation strips USCIS’s discretion whether it should take action to remove an alien under the circumstances.” USCIS’s decision “is not a decision to ‘commence proceedings,’ much less to ‘adjudicate’ a case or ‘execute’ a removal order.” View "Mukantagara, et al. v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, et al." on Justia Law

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In 1999, Javier Zapata-Chacon, then a conditional permanent resident, admitted his removability based on a Colorado conviction for possession of marihuana. An Immigration Judge (“IJ”) ordered Zapata-Chacon removed and a final administrative order issued and was executed that same year. Since his removal, Zapata-Chacon illegally reentered the United States on three occasions. In 2020, Zapata-Chacon moved for reconsideration of the 1999 removal order, arguing his possession of marihuana conviction was not a categorical match to a federal “controlled substance offense” because Colorado’s definition of marihuana used broader language than the federal definition. An IJ denied the motion. The Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) adopted and affirmed the IJ’s denial, and Zapata-Chacon appealed. With the petition pending before the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals court, the Government, through a letter pursuant to Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 28(j), contended for the first time that the IJ and the BIA lacked authority to reopen or review Zapata-Chacon’s proceeding based on him having illegally reentered the United States. The Tenth Circuit concluded 8 U.S.C. § 1231(a)(5) clearly stripped the BIA of authority to review a prior order of removal or to grant any relief provided by the Immigration and Nationality Chapter of Title 8 once a removed alien illegally reentered the United States. Accordingly, Zapata-Chacon’s petition for review was denied. View "Zapata-Chacon v. Garland" on Justia Law

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In 2002, Petitioner Mayra Estrada-Cardona entered the United States on a tourist visa which she subsequently overstayed. She resided in the United States with her two United States citizen children: A.E. and L.E. A.E. suffers from mental and physical disabilities, some of which are likely to be lifelong. While in the United States, Petitioner played a key role in ensuring A.E. received physical therapy and special education support—both vital to A.E.’s wellbeing and continued progress. In 2009, Petitioner was arrested for driving without a license. She pled guilty and paid the associated fines, but because of the traffic violation, Immigration and Customs Enforcement detained Petitioner and began removal proceedings. At the hearing, Petitioner appeared unrepresented and conceded the charge contained in the notice to appear—rendering her removable. At the time, Petitioner was in the country for at most seven years, making her statutorily ineligible for any discretionary relief from removal. The immigration judge therefore ordered Petitioner to voluntarily depart the United States. Every year—from 2013 to 2017—Petitioner requested a stay of removal, and every year ICE approved her request. ICE denied her most recent request on December 28, 2017. ICE did not take any immediate action to remove Petitioner from the United States, only requiring her to attend regular check-ins at the local ICE office. ICE finally detained Petitioner and initiated removal on September 30, 2020. Petitioner asked the BIA to reopen removal proceedings pursuant to Pereira v. Sessions, 138 S. Ct. 2105 (2018). Petitioner's notice to appear failed to specify the “time and place at which the proceedings will be held.” Because the notice to appear did not stop the clock, Petitioner insisted that she had the requisite presence to be eligible for cancellation of removal because she had been in the country for 16 years. BIA held Petitioner was not eligible for cancellation of removal because the immigration judge issued the order to voluntarily depart, which qualified as a final order of removal, when Petitioner had accrued, at most, eight years of physical presence. The Tenth Circuit rejected the BIA's final-order argument, holding that a final order of removal did not stop the accrual of continuous physical presence. View "Estrada-Cardona v. Garland" on Justia Law

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After a jury convicted Jose Hernandez-Calvillo and Mauro Papalotzi (collectively, Appellees) of conspiring to encourage or induce a noncitizen to reside in the United States, they challenged the statute as overbroad under the First Amendment and successfully moved to dismiss the indictment on that basis. The government appealed. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed: 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(1)(A)(iv)'s plain language targets protected speech, and the government’s proposed limiting construction found support in the statute’s text or surrounding context. "And when properly construed, the statute criminalizes a substantial amount of constitutionally protected speech, creating a real danger that the statute will chill First Amendment expression." The Court thus held the statute was substantially overbroad, and affirmed the district court's dismissal of the indictment. View "United States v. Hernandez-Calvillo" 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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Nkemchap Nelvis Takwi sought review of a decision by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) dismissing his appeal from a removal order entered by an Immigration Judge (IJ) and denying his motion to remand. Mr. Takwi was a 36-year-old native and citizen of Cameroon. In August 2019, he came to the United States without authorization and claimed he would be persecuted if returned to Cameroon. An asylum officer conducted an interview and found Mr. Takwi had a “credible fear of persecution.” Shortly thereafter, the government charged Mr. Takwi as “subject to removal” because he was a noncitizen who attempted to enter the United States without valid entry documents. The Tenth Circuit granted the petition and remanded this matter to the BIA because the IJ did not make an explicit adverse credibility determination, and the BIA did not afford Mr. Takwi the required rebuttable presumption of credibility. View "Takwi v. Garland" on Justia Law