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

Articles Posted in Immigration Law

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Vyloha, a Czech citizen, entered the U.S. in 1998 and overstayed his visa. In 2006, after he was convicted of DUI, DHS charged Vyloha with removability, 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(1)(B). The notice indicated that the hearing’s time and date were to be determined. Days later, a notice was mailed to Vyloha’s attorney setting the date. On October 13, 2006, Vyloha appeared before and presented a letter from his counsel, requesting rescheduling. Vyloha indicated that he preferred to proceed in English. The IJ personally served Vyloha with notice of his rescheduled hearing in May 2007 and orally warned him about the consequences of failing to appear. Vyloha did not appear at that hearing. The IJ ordered him removed in absentia. Shortly thereafter, police arrested Vyloha for driving with a suspended license. While serving a sentence for that offense, Vyloha learned that there was an ICE detainer on him. ICE did not take him into custody at the conclusion of his sentence, but, in 2017, apprehended Vyloha. He moved to reopen his proceedings and to rescind the in absentia order, claiming he had no notice of the 2007 hearing due to his limited English and exceptional circumstances due to his counsel’s ineffectiveness. The BIA upheld the denial of that motion. Vyloha unsuccessfully sought reconsideration based on the Supreme Court’s 2018 "Pereira" decision, arguing that because his initial Notice lacked the specific date, the immigration courts did not have subject-matter jurisdiction. The Seventh Circuit agreed. Vyloha could have argued that his Notice was statutorily deficient before the Pereira decision, so his challenge is untimely. Given his personally-served notice and appearance at a hearing, Vyloha cannot show prejudice that would excuse his forfeiture. View "Vyloha v. Barr" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law

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Gawron, a Polish citizen who has lived in the U.S. for 17 years, and her husband, Motyka, were involved in an elaborate credit card fraud scheme. Gawron pleaded guilty to wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1343. The presentence investigation report noted that the court “ordinarily” should not impose supervision on a defendant who would likely be removed from the country after her release from prison, U.S.S.G. 5D1.1(c) but recommended a discretionary condition prohibiting Gawron from leaving the “jurisdiction” where she is being supervised without permission. Gawron objected to other conditions of supervised release, but did not argue that supervised release should be skipped because of her likely removal, nor did she contest the condition restricting her movement. Gawron’s counsel stated that immigration proceedings had started and that her deportation was likely. The court imposed a below-Guidelines prison sentence of 12 months and one day, with two years of supervision. The court granted Gawron’s request to delay reporting to prison until Motyka’s release, for the sake of their children. In the meantime, Gawron would be subject to the conditions of her pretrial supervision. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting a challenge to the imposition of any term of supervised release because she is likely to be deported after her imprisonment. Her argument that the condition confining her to the district where she is being supervised is flawed for containing no scienter requirement would have warranted relief if she had properly preserved it. View "United States v. Gawron" on Justia Law

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Gamero, a Mexican citizen who entered in 1973 and became a lawful U.S. permanent resident 1989, had state drug convictions. An immigration judge found him removable as an alien convicted of the aggravated felony of “illicit trafficking in a controlled substance,” 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(43)(B). He sought deferral of removal under the Convention Against Torture. The judge denied that relief because the evidence he presented about the risk of torture from Mexican drug cartels was largely speculative. The Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed. Gamero later moved to reopen the removal proceedings based on new evidence that his brother-in-law and nephew had been kidnapped and held for ransom in Gamero’s hometown. The Board denied the motion, ruling that the new evidence was unlikely to change the outcome. The Seventh Circuit denied a petition for review, rejecting arguments that his drug convictions do not qualify as “illicit trafficking” under 1101(a)(43)(B) because the crimes in question do not require proof of remuneration; that the agency’s decision to deny his application under the Convention Against Torture is not supported by substantial evidence; and that the agency applied the wrong legal standard and abused its discretion when it denied his motion to reopen. View "Gamero v. Barr" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law

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Doe, a citizen of Iran, sought lawful permanent residence in the U.S. under the EB-5 visa program, which requires applicants to invest in a new U.S. commercial enterprise, 8 U.S.C. 1153(b)(5)(A). Doe invested $500,000 in Elgin Assisted Living EB-5 Fund, for a memory care facility. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) denied Doe’s petition because the facility had not been built. Doe filed suit. The court granted the government summary judgment. Meanwhile, Doe’s attorney was accused of defrauding 226 immigrants who invested over $88 million; he allegedly misappropriated the memory care center's funds. Doe eventually successfully applied to adjust his status to that of a conditional permanent resident. At the conclusion of his two-year, conditional term, Doe petitioned to remove the conditions on his residency. USCIS denied his petition. The district court upheld the denial, rejecting arguments that the decision was arbitrary and capricious, exceeded the relevant statutory and regulatory authority, and deprived Doe of his due process rights under the Fifth Amendment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. USCIS reasonably concluded, after questioning the single expenditure supported by Doe’s investment, that significant questions remained unanswered about whether the transaction was legitimate and truly placed the full value of the investment “at risk” for purposes of job creation. View "Doe v. McAleenan" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law

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Arrazabal, born in El Salvador, was admitted as a lawful U.S. permanent resident in 1995, at age 19. In 1996, Arrazabal was recruited into the MS-13 gang. He was convicted on firearms and drug charges. His status as a lawful permanent resident was revoked. His request for asylum was denied and he was ordered removed in 2001. Arrazabal alleges that he renounced his gang membership upon his return to El Salvador and, as a result, suffered violence by MS-13, a rival gang, and the police. He represents that he was repeatedly arrested without cause, jailed for extended periods, and tortured by police. Arrazabal fled El Salvador and returned to the U.S. illegally. He was arrested in 2012 for unlawful reentry and spent 27 months in prison. He applied again for asylum. An asylum officer preliminarily determined that he had a reasonable fear of being tortured if returned to El Salvador. Because Arrazabal’s 2001 removal order precluded asylum, he unsuccessfully sought withholding of removal and Convention Against Torture protection. Following a remand, additional evidence was presented. The IJ and Board of Appeals again denied relief. The Seventh Circuit again remanded, finding that the IJ and the Board mischaracterized certain evidence and again ignored corroborative aspects of the evidence. View "Arrazabal v. Barr" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law

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Doe, an Iranian national, sought conditional permanent residency using the EB-5 admission category, which offers visas for immigrants who invest in new job-creating enterprises. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) initially approved Doe’s petition but revoked its approval two years later. The revocation notice identified material changes: USCIS discovered information that contradicted evidence in the record, that the project had moved, and that Doe had not provided a business plan or targeted employment area certification for the new location. The record contained no evidence that the center was under construction or would create 10 jobs. Doe sought judicial review under the Administrative Procedure Act. The district court concluded that Congress had stripped its jurisdiction to review discretionary revocations of visa petitions (8 U.S.C. 1252(a)(2)(B)(ii).) and dismissed Doe’s suit. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting an argument based on Musunuru v. Lynch (2016), in which the Seventh Circuit held that section 1252(a)(2)(B)(ii) does not preclude judicial review of purely procedural rulings during the adjudication of a visa petition. The Doe ruling was not procedural. Doe challenged the agency’s substantive decision-making and cannot evade a jurisdiction-stripping statute by repackaging his substantive complaints as procedural objections. “Taken to its logical conclusion, Doe’s approach would eviscerate 1252(a)(2)(B)(ii). Any petitioner dissatisfied with a final agency decision could secure judicial review by alleging that the agency committed a procedural violation by overlooking favorable evidence.” View "Doe v. McAleenan" on Justia Law