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

Articles Posted in Immigration Law
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The case involves Jose Luis Amador-Bonilla, a citizen of Guatemala and Nicaragua, who was charged with violating 8 U.S.C. § 1326, Illegal Reentry After Removal from the United States. Amador-Bonilla had entered the United States without authorization multiple times and had been removed six times. He was arrested in Oklahoma and charged with illegal reentry, an offense for which he had already been convicted twice. He moved to dismiss the indictment, arguing that the illegal reentry provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act violates his right to equal protection under the Fifth Amendment.The United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma denied Amador-Bonilla's motion to dismiss the indictment. The court determined that rational basis review applied to Amador-Bonilla’s challenge and that the challenge failed because Amador-Bonilla failed to show there was no “rational relationship between the disparity of treatment and some legitimate governmental purpose.” The court also found that even if the Arlington Heights framework arguably applied, Amador-Bonilla “failed to demonstrate that [8 U.S.C. § 1326] was passed with a discriminatory purpose as a motivating factor.”The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court concluded that 8 U.S.C. § 1326 does not violate the Fifth Amendment. The court found that Amador-Bonilla failed to show that Congress enacted the provision in 1952 with a discriminatory purpose as a motivating factor. The court also noted that all parties agreed that the provision otherwise satisfies rational basis review. View "United States v. Amador-Bonilla" on Justia Law

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The case involves Cristina Rangel-Fuentes, a Mexican citizen who entered the United States without inspection in 1995 or 1996 and has remained since. She was charged with inadmissibility in 2012 after being arrested for contempt of court. Rangel conceded her inadmissibility but applied for cancellation of her removal in 2014, arguing that her removal would result in exceptional and extremely unusual hardship to her youngest son, Fernando. In 2017, Rangel also filed an application for asylum, citing recent incidents of violence against her family members in Mexico.The immigration judge declared the record closed in September 2017, when Fernando was twenty years old and thus a “child” for the purposes of cancellation of removal. However, due to the yearly statutory cap on the number of cancellations of removal the Attorney General may grant, the immigration judge did not issue a written opinion until September 2019. By that time, Fernando was no longer a "child" under the statute. The immigration judge also denied Rangel’s asylum application, ruling that Rangel waited too long to apply for asylum upon learning of her cousin’s murder and that she could not show a well-founded fear of future persecution on account of her membership in a particular social group.Rangel appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), which rejected her argument that the immigration judge was required to fix Fernando’s age at the time of the evidentiary hearing. The BIA also determined that Rangel had waived her argument with respect to the immigration judge’s denial of her asylum application.The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit held that the BIA’s interpretation of the statute regarding the age of a qualifying child for the purposes of cancellation of removal was reasonable and entitled to deference. However, the court agreed with Rangel’s separate argument that the BIA abused its discretion by treating her asylum appeal as waived. The court thus denied the petition for review as to cancellation of removal but granted the petition in part and remanded for the BIA to address the merits of Rangel’s asylum appeal. View "Rangel-Fuentes v. Garland" on Justia Law

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Cirilo Olmedo-Martinez, an alien, was charged with removability by the Department of Homeland Security. He applied for cancellation of removal, arguing that his removal would result in exceptional and extremely unusual hardship to his family members. The Immigration Judge (IJ) denied his application, finding that he failed to demonstrate such hardship. Olmedo-Martinez appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) and moved to remand the proceedings, presenting new evidence including his brother's successful withholding of removal due to ongoing familial violence in Mexico and the birth of his daughter. The BIA dismissed the appeal and declined to remand the case, concluding that Olmedo-Martinez failed to show how the new evidence would change the outcome of the IJ's decision.Olmedo-Martinez then filed a motion to reopen and remand the case based on additional new evidence: his son’s diagnosis with a complex medical condition and an educational impairment. The BIA denied the motion, holding that Olmedo-Martinez could not demonstrate that the condition was particularly serious or that his child could not continue treatment in his absence, and he failed to sufficiently address how his removal would affect his child’s educational hardship.The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit reviewed the BIA's denial of Olmedo-Martinez's motion to reopen. The court found that the BIA did not err in denying the motion to reopen, as Olmedo-Martinez failed to establish a reasonable likelihood that the statutory requirement of exceptional and extremely unusual hardship would be met in reopened proceedings. The court also found that the BIA properly applied the legal standard in its decision. Therefore, the court denied the petition for review. View "Olmedo-Martinez v. Garland" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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The case involves Wendy Miguel-Peña and her minor daughter, natives and citizens of El Salvador, who entered the United States without authorization. The Department of Homeland Security initiated removal proceedings, and an immigration judge found them removable and ineligible for asylum or protection under the Convention Against Torture. They appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals, which also dismissed their appeal.Miguel-Peña and her daughter then sought review of the Board's order, alleging error in denying their motion to terminate removal proceedings and denial of Miguel-Peña’s asylum claim based on a lack of connection between alleged persecution and a protected ground, and a finding that “women business owners in El Salvador” is not an immutable particular social group. The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit denied the petition, finding that the petitioners failed to exhaust their claim-processing arguments under the law, and that the Board of Immigration Appeals did not err in its analysis of the asylum claim.Specifically, the court found substantial evidence supporting the Board's findings that the alleged persecution was not based on an anti-gang political opinion or membership in a particular social group. The court also agreed with the Board's conclusion that the proposed social group of "women business owners in El Salvador" was not immutable, and therefore, not a cognizable social group under asylum law. View "Miguel-Pena v. Garland" on Justia Law

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