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

Articles Posted in Immigration Law
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Osmani fled the Kosovo War and was admitted to the U.S as a refugee in 1999. Osmani was convicted for possession of illegal narcotics in 2019. The government sought to remove Osmani based on a prior conviction for aggravated felony theft, commission of two or more crimes involving moral turpitude, and his narcotics conviction. Osmani sought adjustment of status to legal permanent resident, 8 U.S.C. 1159(a). The bases of inadmissibility may be waived for refugees, 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(2)(A)(i)(I), (II) “for humanitarian purposes, to assure family unity, or when it is otherwise in the public interest.” Osmani claimed he had no ties or documentation linking him to Kosovo, would be unable to support himself if removed, and was a member of a persecuted ethnic minority. The government took no position on Osmani’s applications.The IJ granted Osmani an adjustment and waiver, citing Osmani’s relationship with his family and childhood PTSD. Although Osmani submitted documents describing current conditions in Kosovo, the IJ did not address that issue. The BIA agreed that Osmani’s family ties were insufficient to justify waiver and the balance of equities disfavored Osmani, then declined to remand to the IJ to supplement the record, including on conditions in Kosovo. Osmani was removed. The Seventh Circuit remanded. The BIA legally erred by considering arguments the government did not present to the IJ, put Osmani on notice of, or develop any record evidence to support. In declining to remand, the BIA engaged in impermissible fact-finding. View "Osmani v. Garland" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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Mabuneza, a citizen of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) entered the U.S. in 2000 as a refugee and became a lawful permanent resident in 2001. After a 2006 conviction for petit larceny and a 2016 conviction for aggravated sexual abuse, Mabuneza was placed in removal proceedings.Mabuneza applied for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT), asserting that he received refugee status because he had faced persecution as a member of the Tutsi ethnic group and that he would be targeted again if he were deported; that he would be viewed as a political dissident for being featured in Chicago Tribune articles describing his family’s experiences as refugees; that he would be detained upon return to the DRC as a traitor; and that he would be seen as a threat due to his sexual abuse conviction. Mabuneza submitted country conditions evidence showing that persons returning to the DRC may face suspicion from the police and be arrested and detained and that the Congolese government sometimes tortures detainees and prisoners for political and human rights activism.The BIA dismissed an appeal from the IJ's denial of relief. The Seventh Circuit denied a petition for review. The IJ did not make any factual or legal error in finding that Mabuneza did not face a substantial risk of torture as a recent deportee. View "Mabuneza v. Garland" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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Pineda-Teruel is a citizen of Honduras, where he owns a coffee farm. He entered the U.S. in 2007, was removed to Honduras in 2017, reentered the U.S. in 2019, and was apprehended at the border. Pineda-Teruel applied for withholding of removal, 8 U.S.C. 1231(b)(3)(A), and protection under the Convention Against Torture, claiming that the mafia had demanded money from him in Honduras and threatened to kill him but had killed his two cousins who were working at the farm. Pineda-Teruel said that he feared for his life.The IJ denied Pineda-Teruel’s application, finding that he failed to establish past persecution or the likelihood of future persecution if he were to relocate within Honduras and that there was no nexus between Pineda-Teruel’s fear of harm—which was due to the mafia’s belief that he had money from his time in the U.S.—and any claimed status as a member of a statutorily protected social group. The BIA dismissed Pineda-Teruel’s appeal, concluding that his past experiences in Honduras did not rise to the level of past persecution or torture and he had not established a clear probability of torture in the future given that he had successfully relocated within Honduras. The Seventh Circuit denied a petition for review, noting that Pineda-Teruel claimed that the men who threatened him and killed his cousins were now living in the U.S. View "Pineda-Teruel v. Garland" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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Nyandwi, a citizen of Burundi and a native of Tanzania, came to the U.S. as a refugee in 2006 and became a lawful permanent resident. After Nyandwi was convicted of robbery in the second degree, receiving a stolen firearm, and illegal possession of a controlled substance, DHS began removal proceedings under 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii), (B)(i). Nyandwi sought Asylum and Withholding of Removal under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). Nyandwi submitted evidence of country conditions in Burundi and testified that he was an ethnic Twa whose parents fled Burundi in 1996 because of a civil war that resulted in the death of Twas, including his family members. Nyandwi was unable to speak the native language, had no proof of political allegiance to the governing regime, and was unable to pay compulsory election contributions.The IJ and BIA denied relief. The Seventh Circuit denied a petition for review. The IJ considered the relevant factors such as evidence of past torture, ability to relocate within the country, evidence of grave human rights violations or other relevant country conditions, reflecting a careful analysis of the component parts of a holistic claim, and did not fail to consider critical evidence. View "Nyandwi v. Garland" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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Murry, a Jamaican citizen, entered in 2005 the U.S. as the fiancé of a U.S. citizen, whom he later married. Murry applied for permanent residence based on the marriage. USCIS denied the application in 2011. The government started removal proceedings. Murry has remained in the U.S. without authorization. Murry sought relief based on his sexual orientation. He testified that he has been attracted to men since he was a teenager and that in 2004 after a man publicly called him gay and urged bystanders to shun him, five men hit and kicked Murry. Fearing repercussions, he did not seek medical care or ask the police for help.The IJ considered evidence about how the treatment of gay people in Jamaica has evolved since 2004. The IJ denied Murry relief; Murry was ineligible for withholding of removal because the private attack in 2004 did not demonstrate state-sanctioned past persecution, and other evidence of the country’s conditions did not show a clear probability of future persecution. The BIA dismissed Murry’s appeal. The Seventh Circuit denied a petition for review. Jamaica rarely enforces its anti-sodomy laws for consensual sexual relations, and recent reports show growing public support for gay rights. Substantial evidence indicates that Murry does not face a likelihood of state-sanctioned persecution. View "Murry v. Garland" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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In 2011, Campos-Rivera, a citizen of Mexico, was convicted of Illinois state felonies He was removed but reentered and was apprehended in 2018. Charged with unlawfully reentering the U.S. after removal, 8 U.S.C. 1326(a), he was initially represented by an assistant public defender. Counsel was allowed to withdraw at Campos-Rivera’s request based on an irreconcilable conflict. A new lawyer was appointed. Campos-Rivera then filed multiple pro se motions raising issues that his new attorney declined to pursue. The judge told him that he could not proceed pro se and through counsel. Campos-Rivera asked the judge to dismiss his attorney and appoint a third. The judge declined, giving Campos-Rivera a choice: move forward with his current lawyer or proceed pro se. Campos-Rivera chose the latter. The judge then denied the pro se motions and later found Campos-Rivera guilty.The Seventh Circuit affirmed. A disagreement between attorney and client over pretrial motions is not grounds for the appointment of a new attorney. Campos-Rivera validly waived his right to counsel; the judge conducted a comprehensive waiver colloquy to ensure that the decision was fully informed and voluntary. Campos-Rivera’s challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence fails because section 1326(a) is a general-intent crime. The government need only prove that the defendant knowingly reentered the U.S., not that he intended to do so unlawfully. The stipulated facts support an inference of knowing reentry. No specific factual finding regarding the intent element was necessary. View "United States v. Campos-Rivera" on Justia Law

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Omowole, a citizen of Nigeria, married her first husband, Festus, in 2007. Festus had won a diversity lottery visa for admission to the U.S. in 2006, and Omowole, as his spouse, was eligible for a derivative visa. By the time they emigrated (separately), months later they were estranged as a result of Festus’s disclosure that he had fathered a child with another woman before he married Omowole. Omowole settled in Indiana and Festus in California. The two never cohabited in the U.S. as husband and wife. In 2011, they divorced. Festus subsequently married the mother of his child. When he then attempted to become a naturalized U.S. citizen and sought lawful permanent resident status for his new wife and his child, USCIS investigated and determined his marriage to Omowole had been a sham entered into for the purpose of facilitating her entry into the United States.The Board of Immigration Appeals sustained the findings of two immigration judges that Omowole is removable for having procured an entry visa by fraud and not entitled to asylum or withholding of removal. The Seventh Circuit denied a petition for review. The decision rested on the immigration judges’ adverse findings as to Omowole’s credibility and that of her ex-husband, and those findings are supported by substantial evidence. View "Omowole v. Garland" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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Meza, a citizen of Mexico, entered the U.S. without being formally admitted or paroled in 1996, when he was nine years old. He has remained in this country ever since. He is married to another Mexican native, with whom he has five U.S.-citizen children. Meza’s parents also reside in the U.S. and have lawful permanent resident status. Around 2012, DHS initiated removal proceedings against him under 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(6)(A)(i). Meza applied for discretionary cancellation of removal under section 1229b(b), arguing that his removal would create exceptional and extremely unusual hardship to his parents and his U.S.- citizen children.While his removal proceedings were pending, Meza was convicted of DUI. He collided with another vehicle. No one was injured, but the incident caused $5,000 in damage to the other car. Meza later pleaded guilty to operating a vehicle without a license and to operating a motor vehicle without insurance. He later pleaded guilty to failing to install an ignition interlock on his vehicle. Meza admitted that he used a fabricated social security number to obtain employment, 2003-2015. The BIA and Seventh Circuit upheld an IJ’s determination that Meza was ineligible for cancellation because he had failed to establish that he was a person of “good moral character.” View "Meza v. Garland" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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Calan-Montiel, a citizen of Mexico, entered the U.S. without inspection and was ordered removed. He was returned to Mexico. He came back, again evading inspection, and was caught again in 2019. Convicted under 8 U.S.C. 1326, for reentering without permission, after a removal order, he was sentenced to 16 months' imprisonment. He argued that his first removal was unlawful because his Notice to Appear did not contain the information required by statute.The Seventh Circuit affirmed. A removal order that serves as the basis of a section 1326 prosecution is subject to collateral attack only if the alien demonstrates that he exhausted any administrative remedies that may have been available, the deportation proceedings at which the order was issued improperly deprived the alien of the opportunity for judicial review; and the entry of the order was fundamentally unfair. Noncompliance with the one document rule is not a jurisdictional defect in a removal proceeding. There is nothing unfair, “fundamentally or otherwise, about using two documents to provide information.” Calan-Montiel does not deny that he had actual knowledge of the removal order. He could have asked to reopen the proceedings, or sought judicial review, even after being removed. His actions make it impossible to satisfy section 1326(d), even if the agency erred in sending notice of the hearing’s date. View "United States v. Calan-Montiel" on Justia Law

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In 2010, Chuchman, a 17-year-old student, joined the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform (UDAR), a political party that opposed then-president Yanukovych. In 2012, her university’s dean warned Chuchman that she could be expelled for her political activity. Two months later, police assaulted, arrested, and detained Chuchman at a rally. The dean again implored Chuchman to stop her political activity, saying she could be expelled. In 2013, Chuchman was assaulted by the police after attending another protest, suffering a broken nose, and a concussion; she was hospitalized for three weeks. Chuchman entered the U.S. using a cultural exchange visa. Two months later, Ukrainian police began searching for her. They sent summonses to her dormitory and to her parents’ house. While Chuchman was in the U.S., demonstrations and civil unrest broke out across Ukraine, culminating in Yanukovych’s ouster in 2014. UDAR merged with the new president’s party.Chuchman applied for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture. In Ukraine, the police continued to search for Chuchman, citing “public disturbances.” Chuchman testified that she feared reprisal from the many pro-Yanukovych officials who remained in office. The IJ found Chuchman credible but denied relief. The BIA affirmed. The Seventh Circuit denied a petition for review. Substantial evidence supports the conclusion that Chuchman’s experience in Ukraine did not rise to the level of persecution; she failed to present compelling evidence that the new government would persecute her if she returned. View "Chuchman v. Garland" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law