Justia U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Immigration Law
by
Vasquez-Abarca’s parents brought him to the U.S. in 1986. In 1995, at age 14, he was arrested for having sex with a 12-year-old but told authorities that he was either 16-17 years old and was convicted of a felony sex offense. He was deported in 1997. Vasquez-Abarca reentered illegally and was arrested for disorderly conduct. In 2001, he was convicted of failing to register as a sex offender and charged with illegal reentry, 8 U.S.C. 1326(a). He was sentenced to 57 months in prison. He was deported in 2005. Vasquez-Abarca reentered in 2006. In the following years, he committed multiple driving-related offenses, resulting in two felony convictions in Georgia; after his release, he was sentenced in Illinois to an additional 24 months for violating the terms of his supervised release on the illegal reentry conviction. He was deported in 2015. Vasquez-Abarca illegally re-entered again in 2016. He was arrested on an outstanding warrant for using a fake driver’s license and was convicted of a felony. Vasquez-Abarca also pleaded guilty to illegally reentering. The guidelines range was 30-37 months. The defense argued that Vasquez-Abarca’s driving violations stemmed from his lack of legal residency status. The court imposed a sentence of 72 months; 8 U.S.C. 1326(b)(2) authorized a sentence of up to 20 years. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The sentence was a reasonable exercise of the judge’s discretion under 18 U.S.C. 3553(a). The judge gave a sufficient explanation for the decision, based primarily on Vasquez-Abarca’s criminal history and that a previous 57-month sentence for the same crime had not deterred him. View "United States v. Vasquez-Abarca" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
by
Simental-Galarza unlawfully entered the U.S. in 2001. He married a U.S. citizen in 2013; they divorced three years later. Simental-Galarza was charged as removable under 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(6)(A)(i), for having entered and remained without lawful admission. Simental-Galarza sought cancellation of removal as a battered spouse under 8 U.S.C. 1229b(b)(2), alleging that his removal would result in extreme hardship. He offered evidence of physical, verbal, and psychological abuse and that the abuse left him depressed. His sister-in-law confirmed that since the divorce, Simental-Galarza rarely talked, never laughed, and did not trust people. A licensed clinical social worker diagnosed him with anxiety, severe depression, PTSD, and dependent personality disorder and advised that he continue therapy in a stable, supportive environment. His parents are deceased and five siblings live here. He has steady work. His sister-in-law predicted that if Simental-Galarza were removed, he would “shut down” and that Mexico did not have the mental health resources that are available here. The IJ rejected his claim. The BIA dismissed Simental-Galarza’s appeal, finding that he had not shown that he could not obtain work in Mexico and that, although Mexico can be violent, Simental-Galarza had not shown that he would personally face violence or “that he could not obtain treatment for his anxiety and depression.” The Seventh Circuit denied a petition for review. The IJ and BIA adequately evaluated the relevant factors and evidence. View "Simental-Galarza v. Barr" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
by
Garcia‐Arce, a citizen of Mexico, was removed from the U.S. and illegally re‐entered. She was arrested for driving under the influence; her removal order was reinstated. Garcia‐Arce sought withholding of removal under 8 U.S.C. 1231(b)(3), and the Convention Against Torture (CAT), based on her purported fear of persecution and torture. Garcia‐Arce testified that in her hometown she was sexually assaulted by her uncle and by a gang member to whom her brother “sold her.” An IJ noted that Garcia‐Arce presented a fake birth certificate at the border, made statements that she did not fear returning to Mexico, could avoid persecution by relocating within Mexico, and had not alleged that a Mexican official had acquiesced or would acquiesce in any torture. The BIA affirmed. Garcia‐Arce moved to reopen based on her attorney’s allegedly ineffective assistance in not properly advancing Garcia‐Arce’s claim that she would be persecuted upon return to Mexico as a result of her alleged mental illness and her CAT claim based on Mexican drug cartels and corrupt law enforcement. The BIA concluded that it was reasonable for the attorney to focus on Garcia‐Arce’s past mistreatment rather than on her mental health and that Garcia‐Arce had not shown that she suffered prejudice. The Seventh Circuit denied petitions for review. The denial of Garcia‐Arce’s withholding application was supported by substantial evidence. Garcia‐Arce’s counsel’s assistance was not so deficient that Garcia‐Arce was prevented from reasonably presenting her case. View "Garcia-Arce v. Barr" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
by
Lopez was born in Mexico in 1974, His mother, born in Mexico, acquired U.S. citizenship at birth through her mother. Mother entered the U.S. in 1978 and received a certificate of citizenship in 1990. Lopez was admitted to the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident in 1985. In 2009, he was convicted of drug crimes and was sentenced to 122 months’ imprisonment. In 2018, DHS began removal proceedings, alleging that Lopez was removable under 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii); (a)(2)(B)(i). Lopez maintained that the law at the time of his birth (8 U.S.C. 1401; 1431–32) that prevented him from automatically deriving citizenship violated the Equal Protection Clause. The law denied automatic citizenship to children born abroad to one citizen non-resident parent and one noncitizen parent unless the citizen parent met a physical presence requirement. An IJ declined to consider the equal protection challenge and ruled that Lopez was removable. The BIA affirmed. The Seventh Circuit denied a petition for review, finding that the statute has a rational basis, so there is no equal protection violation. Lopez did not maintain that he is a member of a suspect or protected class or that his fundamental rights were at stake. The legislation was aimed at preventing the perpetuation of U.S. citizenship by citizens born abroad who remain there, or who may have been born in the U.S. but who go abroad as infants and do not return to this country. View "Ramos v. Barr" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
by
Malukas, a citizen of Lithuania, entered the U.S. in 1992 on a tourist visa and did not leave when it expired. In 1995 he was convicted of weapons-related felonies. Malukas applied for discretionary relief from removal as the spouse of a U.S. citizen. The Board of Immigration Appeals denied relief. His motion for reconsideration was denied in 2003. Malukas did not seek judicial review but remained in the U.S. His Lithuanian passport had expired; Lithuania would not issue new documents. In 2018 Malukas filed a second motion to reconsider and a motion to reopen, contending that the removal order is invalid because the proceeding began with a “Notice to Appear” that did not include a hearing date and time. The date and time were furnished in a later document. He also contended that he had been rehabilitated and that Lithuania’s failure to accept his return justified discretionary relief. The Board denied this motion. Malukas asked the Board to reopen sua sponte because time-and-number limits do not restrict the Board’s authority to act independently. The Seventh Circuit denied relief, noting that reopening would not be sua sponte but would be a response to the motion, subject to the time-and-number limits and that the Board’s discretionary authority is not subject to judicial review. The rehabilitation and passport arguments are substantive and the Board adequately stated its reasons. View "Malukas v. Barr" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
by
Zacahua, a citizen of Mexico, lived as an unauthorized alien in the U.S. for over 20 years. Although he was employed by a Hilton hotel, Zacahua also transported heroin. Zacahua and codefendants were indicted for conspiracy to distribute heroin. During Zacahua’s bond hearing, the government invoked Zacahua’s immigration status to argue that he was a serious flight risk because he faced the likelihood of removal. The court held a Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11 hearing, advised Zacahua that he faced a 120-month mandatory minimum sentence, and informed Zacahua of his rights and the potential consequences of a felony conviction. The court never told Zacahua that he might be removed from the U.S. and denied future admission as a consequence of his guilty plea, as Rule 11(b)(1)(O) requires. During an interview with a Probation Officer, Zacahua acknowledged his unauthorized status and that he faced deportation. He expressed hopes of working at a Hilton hotel in Mexico and of caring for his ailing parents. At his subsequent sentencing hearing, the court acknowledged the likelihood of deportation and discussed Zacahua’s employment prospects in Mexico. Zacahua spoke of returning to Mexico as quickly as possible. The court sentenced him to the mandatory minimum: 120 months. The Seventh Circuit rejected his attempt to withdraw his plea based on the Rule 11 violation. Zacahua does not demonstrate a reasonable probability that, had the court provided the warning, he would not have pleaded guilty. View "United States v. Zacahua" on Justia Law

by
Odei, a Christian pastor in Ghana and a founding member of Spirit of Grace, a U.S. nonprofit religious group, is a Ph.D. candidate in an online educational program sponsored by a Tennessee university. Spirit of Grace invited him to visit the U.S. to participate in religious activities. Odei also planned to speak at churches and youth groups, perform missionary work, and meet his academic advisors. Odei obtained a B-1/B-2 visa from the U.S. Consulate in Ghana. When Odei arrived in Chicago, Customs agents questioned him, determined that his visa was invalid for his intended missionary and academic purposes, found him inadmissible under 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(7), and canceled the visa. They did not immediately remove him because he answered “yes” when asked if he feared returning to Ghana. He was held in the McHenry County Jail. A week later Odei dropped his asylum claim. DHS allowed Odei to withdraw his application for admission and return to Ghana. Odei and Spirit sued DHS, citing the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The judge dismissed, citing 8 U.S.C. 1252(a)(2)(A), which bars judicial review of any “order of removal pursuant to” the expedited removal procedure in 8 U.S.C. 1225(b)(1)(A)(i). The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Although Odei was not subjected to expedited removal, an “order of removal” refers to both an order to remove and an order that an alien is removable. Odei challenged the latter; the jurisdictional bar applies. View "Odei v. United States Department of Homeland Security" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
by
Corral, a native of Mexico, was admitted to the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident in 1994. In 1999, he applied for naturalization. He became a U.S. citizen in 2000. He was then indicted on seven counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse. Less than five months after becoming a U.S. citizen, Corral pleaded guilty to Aggravated Criminal Sexual Abuse, under Illinois law, which then stated, “sexual conduct with a victim who was under 18 years of age when the act was committed and the accused was a family member.” In 2017, the government sought to revoke Corral’s citizenship on the grounds that he obtained his citizenship illegally and by willful misrepresentation or concealment of a material fact, 8 U.S.C. 1451(a), in that Corral lacked good moral character because he committed a crime involving moral turpitude within the statutory period of five years preceding his application for citizenship. The Seventh Circuit affirmed a ruling in favor of the government, rejecting defenses of “laches” and selective prosecution. Whether Corral made a willful misrepresentation or concealed a material fact is irrelevant because these factors do not relate to the ground for Corral’s denaturalization. View "United States v. Valenzuela" on Justia Law

by
Hernandez-Garcia’s husband entered the U.S. illegally in 2001. He sent her money in Guatemala, so she had a higher standard of living than her neighbors. In 2013, her oldest son left for the U.S. She began receiving anonymous notes asking for money and threatening her and her younger children. Hernandez-Garcia went to the police, who ignored her. The family left Guatemala. At the U.S. border, they were served with Notices to Appear. An immigration judge denied their applications for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture. Hernandez-Garcia admitted that she told an officer that she did not fear persecution or torture and that she had left Guatemala because of poverty. The judge found the threats not sufficiently imminent or severe to be more than harassment and that Hernandez-Garcia failed to demonstrate a nexus between that harm and a protected ground, 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(42)(A)). Perceived or actual wealth, alone, does not form the basis of a particular social group. The BIA affirmed, rejecting Hernandez-Garcia’s argument that the proceedings were jurisdictionally barred because of the absence of date-and-place information in the Notice; she received a later notice with that information and appeared at several hearings. The Seventh Circuit denied a petition for review. Hernandez-Garcia was not prejudiced by the omission of information in her Notice to Appear. “It is too big a leap from the indifference the police demonstrated ... to a finding that public officials would either torture her or stand by while others did.” View "Hernandez-Garcia v. Barr" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
by
Petitioner testified at her asylum hearing that she believed that E.G., the father of her son, is a member of the Mexican cartel, La Familia Michoacana. Petitioner ended her relationship with E.G. in July 2012, fearing that opposing cartel members might harm her or her children. She moved to her mother’s house, two hours away, while pregnant with E.G.’s child. Petitioner saw little of E.G. until June 2013, when he started occasionally driving by her home and the restaurant where she worked. When she declined to return to him, E.G. threatened to take her sons away—“the bad way” if necessary. Petitioner moved but continued to see E.G. driving by her apartment late at night. Local police told her there was nothing they could do. She fled to the U.S. with her children. Petitioner has not spoken to E.G. since June 2013 but E.G. sent his relatives to her mother’s house to ask about her whereabouts. Petitioner argued that she was entitled to asylum because she fears persecution as the mother of a cartel member’s child and as a Mexican woman who cannot leave her relationship. The IJ and BIA denied relief. The Seventh Circuit denied a petition for review. Petitioner’s testimony did not establish past persecution or a well-founded fear of future persecution and an inability to relocate in Mexico to avoid persecution. Petitioner did not establish membership in either social group she identified. She did leave her relationship; her belief that E.G. was a cartel member was speculative. View "N. Y. C. C. v. Barr" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law