Articles Posted in Immigration Law

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In January 2017, President Trump signed executive order EO-1, "Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry," suspending, for 90 days, entry of foreign nationals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, and suspending the United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for 120 days. The Ninth Circuit upheld a nationwide temporary restraining order. The government revoked EO-1. EO-2 issued on March 6, describing conditions in six countries that “demonstrate ... heightened risks to [U.S.] security.” EO–2 section 2(a) directs Homeland Security to determine whether foreign governments provide adequate information about nationals applying for U.S visas and to report those findings to the President within 20 days; nations identified as deficient will have 50 days to alter their practices (2(b)). EO–2 2(c) directs that entry of nationals from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, be suspended for 90 days; section 3(c) provides for case-by-case waivers. Section 6(a) suspends decisions on applications for refugee status and travel of refugees under the USRAP for 120 days; 6(b) suspends refugee entries in excess of 50,000 for this year. The order’s stated effective date is March 16, 2017. The Ninth Circuit again declined to stay a temporary injunction. The Supreme Court stayed the order in part, with respect to sections 2(c), 6(a), and 6(b). An American individual or entity that has a bona fide relationship with a particular person seeking to enter the country can legitimately claim concrete hardship if that person is excluded, even if the 50,000-person cap has been reached. As to these individuals and entities, the Court did not disturb the injunction; as to those lacking any such connection, the balance tips in favor of the government’s compelling interest in security. The Court noted a June 12 Ninth Circuit decision vacating the injunction as to 2(a) and stated that the Executive should conclude its work and provide adequate notice to foreign governments within the 90-day life of 2(c). View "Trump. v. International Refugee Assistance Project" on Justia Law

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Lee moved to the U.S. from South Korea with his parents when he was 13. For 35 years he never returned to South Korea, nor did he become a U.S. citizen. He is a lawful permanent resident. In 2008, Lee admitted possessing ecstasy with intent to distribute. His attorney repeatedly assured him that he would not be deported as a result of pleading guilty. Lee accepted a plea and was sentenced to a year and a day in prison. His conviction was an “aggravated felony,” 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(43)(B), so he was subject to mandatory deportation. When Lee learned of this consequence, he moved to vacate his conviction, arguing that his attorney had provided constitutionally ineffective assistance. Lee and his plea-stage counsel testified that “deportation was the determinative issue” in Lee's decision to accept a plea. Lee’s counsel acknowledged that although Lee’s defense was weak, if he had known Lee would be deported upon pleading guilty, he would have advised him to go to trial. The Sixth Circuit affirmed denial of relief. The Supreme Court reversed. Lee established that he was prejudiced by erroneous advice, demonstrating a “reasonable probability that, but for counsel’s errors, he would not have pleaded guilty and would have insisted on going to trial.” The Court stated that the inquiry demands a “case-by-case examination.” A defendant’s decisionmaking may not turn solely on the likelihood of conviction after trial. When the inquiry is focused on what an individual defendant would have done, the possibility of even a highly improbable result may be pertinent to the extent it would have affected the defendant’s decisionmaking. The Court reasoned that it could not say that it would be irrational for someone in Lee’s position to risk additional prison time in exchange for holding on to some chance of avoiding deportation. View "Lee v. United States" on Justia Law

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Maslenjak is an ethnic Serb who resided in Bosnia during the civil war. In 1998, she and her family sought refugee status in the U.S.. Interviewed under oath, Maslenjak explained that the family feared persecution: Muslims would mistreat them because of their ethnicity, and Serbs would abuse them because Maslenjak’s husband had evaded service in the Bosnian Serb Army. They were granted refugee status. Years later, Maslenjak applied for citizenship and swore that she had never given false information to a government official while applying for an immigration benefit or lied to an official to gain entry. She was naturalized. It later emerged Maslenjak had known all along that her husband spent the war years as an officer in the Bosnian Serb Army. The government charged Maslenjak with knowingly “procur[ing], contrary to law, [her] naturalization,” 18 U.S.C. 1425(a). The Supreme Court vacated her conviction, reversing the Sixth Circuit. Section 1425(a) makes clear that, to secure a conviction, the government must establish that the defendant’s illegal act played a role in her acquisition of citizenship. Under the government’s reading “Some legal violations that do not justify denying citizenship would nonetheless justify revoking it later.” The statute Congress passed strips a person of citizenship not when she committed any illegal act during the naturalization process, but only when that act played some role in her naturalization. The government must prove that the misrepresented fact was sufficiently relevant to a naturalization criterion that it would have prompted reasonable officials, “seeking only evidence concerning citizenship qualifications,” to undertake further investigation. If that is true, the inquiry turns to the prospect that the investigation would have borne disqualifying fruit. When the government can make its two-part showing, the defendant may overcome it by establishing that she was nonetheless qualified for citizenship. View "Maslenjak v. United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law

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The Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. 1401(a)(7), provides a path to citizenship for a child born abroad if the child’s U.S.-citizen parent has 10 years’ physical presence in the U.S. before the child’s birth, “at least five of which were after attaining” age 14. Section 1409(c) provides that an unwed U.S.-citizen mother's citizenship can be transmitted to a child born abroad if she has lived continuously in the U.S. for one year before the child’s birth. Morales-Santana’s father, José, moved to the Dominican Republic 20 days before his 19th birthday, so he did not satisfy 1401(a)(7)’s requirement for physical presence after age 14. A Dominican woman gave birth to Morales-Santana in 1962. José accepted parental responsibility. Morales-Santana has lived in the U.S. since he was 13. In 2000, the government sought to remove Morales-Santana based on criminal convictions, ranking him as alien. The Supreme Court affirmed the Second Circuit, ruling in Morales-Santana’s favor. The statute’s gender line is incompatible with the Fifth Amendment’s equal protection requirement. Morales-Santana has third-party standing to vindicate his deceased father’s rights. The Court applied “heightened scrutiny” and found no important governmental interest for the law’s “overbroad generalizations.” Given the choice between extending favorable treatment to the excluded class or withdrawing favorable treatment from the favored class, the Court noted that extension of favorable treatment to fathers would displace Congress’ general rule, the longer physical-presence requirements. Pending Congressional action, the five-year requirement should apply, prospectively, to children born to unwed U.S-citizen mothers. View "Sessions v. Morales-Santana" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, a Mexican citizen and lawful permanent resident of the U.S., pleaded no contest in a California court under a statute criminalizing “unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor who is more than three years younger than the perpetrator,” defining “minor” as “a person under the age of 18.” He was ordered removed under 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(3), as an “alien who is convicted of an aggravated felony,” including “sexual abuse of a minor.” The Supreme Court reversed. Under the categorical approach employed to determine whether an alien’s conviction qualifies as an aggravated felony, the court asks whether the state statute defining the crime of conviction categorically fits within the "generic" federal definition of a corresponding aggravated felony. Petitioner’s state conviction would be an “aggravated felony” only if the least of the acts criminalized by the state statute falls within the generic federal definition of sexual abuse of a minor, regardless of the actual facts of the case. The least of the acts criminalized by the California law would be consensual sexual intercourse between a victim who is almost 18 and a perpetrator who just turned 21. The generic federal definition of “sexual abuse of a minor” requires that the victim be younger than 16 and a significant majority of state criminal codes set the age of consent at 16 for statutory rape offenses predicated exclusively on the age of the participants. View "Esquivel-Quintana v. Sessions" on Justia Law

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An equally divided Court affirmed, by per curiam opinion, the judgment of the appeals court below. That court had temporarily halted implementation of the federal government's Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents program ("DAPA") on the grounds that the policy likely violated the Administrative Procedure Act. The case will go back to the federal district court to determine whether DAPA should be permanently enjoined. View "United States v. Texas" on Justia Law

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Any alien convicted of an “aggravated felony” after entering the U.S. is deportable, ineligible for several forms of discretionary relief, and subject to expedited removal, 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii), (3). An “aggravated felony” is defined as any of numerous offenses listed in Section 1101(a)(43), each of which is typically identified either as an offense “described in” a specific federal statute or by a generic label (e.g., murder); the penultimate sentence states that each enumerated crime is an aggravated felony irrespective of whether it violates federal, state, or foreign law. Luna, a lawful permanent resident, pleaded guilty in New York to attempted third-degree arson. An Immigration Judge determined that Luna’s arson conviction was for an “aggravated felony” and that Luna was ineligible for discretionary relief. The Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed. The Second Circuit denied review. The Supreme Court affirmed. A state offense counts as a Section 1101(a)(43) “aggravated felony” when it has every element of a listed federal crime except one requiring a connection to interstate or foreign commerce.; state crimes do not need a “jurisdictional hook.” Congress meant the term “aggravated felony” to capture serious crimes regardless of whether they are made illegal by the federal government, a state, or a foreign country. It is implausible that Congress viewed the presence of an interstate commerce element as separating serious from nonserious conduct. View "Luna Torres v. Lynch" on Justia Law

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Din petitioned to have her husband, Berashk, a resident citizen of Afghanistan and former civil servant in the Taliban regime, classified as an “immediate relative” entitled to priority immigration status. Din’s petition was approved, but Berashk’s visa application was ultimately denied. A consular officer informed Berashk that he was inadmissible under 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(3)(B), which excludes aliens who have engaged in “[t]errorist activities,” but provided no further information. Unable to obtain a more detailed explanation, Din filed suit. The district court dismissed her complaint. The Ninth Circuit reversed, holding that Din had a protected liberty interest in her marriage that entitled her to review of the denial of Berashk’s visa and that the government deprived her of that liberty interest without due process when it denied Berashk’s visa application without providing a more detailed explanation of its reasons. The Supreme Court vacated and remanded, with Justices Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas concluding that the government did not deprive Din of any constitutional right entitling her to due process of law. Justices Kennedy and Alito found no need to decide whether Din had a protected liberty interest, because, even assuming she did, the notice she received satisfied due process. View "Kerry v. Din" on Justia Law

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After Mata, an unlawful alien, was convicted of assault in a Texas court, an Immigration Judge ordered him removed to Mexico. Mata’s attorney filed notice of appeal with the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), but never filed a brief; the appeal was dismissed. Acting through different counsel, Mata moved to reopen his removal proceedings, 8 U.S.C. 229a(c)(7)(A). Acknowledging that he had missed the 90-day deadline for such motions, Mata argued that his previous counsel’s ineffective assistance was an exceptional circumstance entitling him to equitable tolling. The BIA dismissed the motion as untimely and declined to reopen Mata’s removal proceedings sua sponte based on its separate regulatory authority. The Fifth Circuit construed Mata’s equitable tolling claim as a request that the BIA exercise its regulatory authority to reopen the proceedings sua sponte, and, because its precedent forbids review of BIA decisions not to exercise that authority, dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. The Supreme Court reversed. A court of appeals has jurisdiction to review the BIA’s rejection of an alien’s motion to reopen. Nothing about that jurisdiction changes where the BIA rejects a motion as untimely, or when it rejects a motion requesting equitable tolling of the time limit, or when the denial also contains a separate decision not to exercise its sua sponte authority. If Mata is not entitled to relief on the merits, the correct disposition is to take jurisdiction and affirm the BIA’s denial of his motion. A federal court has a “virtually unflagging obligation” to assert jurisdiction where it has that authority; recharacterizing pleadings cannot be used to sidestep the judicial obligation to assert jurisdiction. View "Mata v. Lynch" on Justia Law

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Mellouli, a lawful permanent resident, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor offense under Kansas law, the possession of drug paraphernalia “to . . . store [or] conceal . . . a controlled substance,” consisting of a sock in which he had placed four unidentified orange tablets. An Immigration Judge ordered him deported under 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(B)(i), which authorizes the deportation of an alien “convicted of a violation of . . . any law or regulation of a State, the United States, or a foreign country relating to a controlled substance (defined in section 802 of Title 21).” Section 802 limits “controlled substance” to a “drug or other substance” included in federal schedules. Kansas defines “controlled substance” according to its own schedules, without reference to Section 802, and included substances not on the federal lists. The Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed. The Eighth Circuit denied a petition for review. The Supreme Court reversed. Mellouli’s Kansas conviction for concealing unnamed pills in his sock did not trigger removal. Under the categorical approach, a state conviction triggers removal only if, by definition, the underlying crime falls within a category of removable offenses defined by federal law. The BIA’s reasoning, that there is no need to show that the type of controlled substance involved in a paraphernalia conviction is one defined in section 802, leads to the anomalous result of treating less grave paraphernalia possession misdemeanors more harshly than drug possession and distribution offenses. The Court rejected the government’s argument that aliens who commit any drug crime in states whose drug schedules substantially overlap the federal schedules are deportable, because the state statutes are laws “relating to” federally controlled substances. To trigger removal under 1227(a)(2)(B)(i), the government must connect an element of the alien’s conviction to a drug defined in section 802. View "Mellouli v. Lynch" on Justia Law