Justia U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Immigration Law
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Plaintiffs, aliens unlawfully in the United States seeking U-Visas, filed suit alleging that DHS unlawfully withheld or unreasonably delayed adjudication of their U-Visa petitions and their applications for work authorization pending U-Visa approval.The Fourth Circuit held that it lacked the power to review plaintiffs' work-authorization claims here because the agency is not required to adjudicate plaintiffs' requests. The court explained that, under the Administrative Procedure Act and All Writs Act, it can only compel faster agency action if the agency is required to act. In this case, neither congressional statutes nor agency regulations compel the agency to adjudicate these requested pre-waiting-list work authorizations. However, the court may review plaintiffs' claim that DHS unreasonably delayed adjudicating their U-Visa petitions. Furthermore, plaintiffs have pleaded sufficient facts to avoid dismissal of their claim for unreasonable delay in placing them on the waiting list. Accordingly, the court dismissed plaintiffs' claims relating to their requests for pre-waiting-list work authorization and remanded plaintiffs' claim relating to U-Visa adjudications. View "Fernandez Gonzalez v. Cuccinelli" on Justia Law

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Resettlement agencies filed suit challenging President Trump's Executive Order 13,888, which drastically alters the system by which the federal government resettles refugees across the United States. The order creates an "opt-in" system requiring that both a state and a locality provide their affirmative consent before refugees will be resettled there. Plaintiffs challenge the Order and notice implementing the order, asserting that they violate the Refugee Act, principles of federalism, and the Administrative Procedure Act.The Fourth Circuit held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting a preliminary injunction prohibiting enforcement of the Order and Notice. The court concluded that plaintiffs have demonstrated that they are likely to succeed on their claim that the Order and Notice violate the carefully crafted scheme for resettling refugees that Congress established in the Refugee Act. The court explained that, at bottom, the consent requirement in the Order and Notice is "incompatible with the overall statutory scheme governing" the refugee resettlement program. Furthermore, the court's conclusion regarding the many infirmities of the consent requirement is not altered by the government's reliance on the so-called "savings clause" of the Order. The court also concluded that the record supports the district court’s award of preliminary injunctive relief under the remaining factors of Winter v. Natural Resources Defense Council, 555 U.S. 7 (2008). The court affirmed the district court's judgment, concluding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in issuing a nationwide injunction. View "HIAS, Inc. v. Trump" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a United States citizen, and his daughter, a citizen and resident of Sierra Leone, filed suit challenging the denial of their visa to the daughter. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint, holding that the doctrine of consular nonrevieawability plainly prohibits the court from questioning the consular officer's visa determination. The court explained that the Supreme Court has unambiguously instructed that absent some clear directive from Congress or an affirmative showing of bad faith, the government must simply provide a valid ineligibility provision as the basis for the visa denial. In this case, the government met this obligation by providing 8 U.S.C. 1201(g) and 1182(a)(6)(C)(i) (an anti-fraud and misrepresentation provision) as the statutory bases for denial of the visa application. Furthermore, not only did the consular officer provide the applicable statutory provisions as the bases for the visa denial, but the officer went further than necessary by explaining her decisionmaking—she found the daughter had proffered a falsified passport and lied about her age. View "Sesay v. United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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In 2008, Homeland Security passed rules requiring that employers receive a favorable labor certification from Labor before obtaining a visa. Homeland Security and Labor jointly issued a new series of rules in 2015. Plaintiffs, a group of employers and associations whose members rely on H-2B visas, filed suit challenging Homeland Security's 2008 Rules and the joint 2015 Rules as exceeding the agencies' statutory authority.The Fourth Circuit held that there is standing to challenge the 2008 Rules but the challenge is time-barred; there is standing to challenge the 2015 Program and Wage Rules; and the 2015 Program and Wage Rules are valid exercises of Labor's implied delegation to rulemake as part of its duty as Homeland Security's chosen consulting agency. The court explained that this implied delegation is evident from the statutory circumstances in the Immigration and Nationality Act, including the requirement that Homeland Security engage in "consultation with appropriate agencies," the definition of H-2B, and Labor's rulemaking powers for similar visas. The court concluded that, while there are limits on which agencies Homeland Security can choose and on those agencies' ability to rulemake, Labor's 2015 Program and Wage Rules fall within both boundaries. View "Outdoor Amusement Business Association, Inc. v. Department of Homeland Security" on Justia Law

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Ayon-Brito was prosecuted and convicted in the Eastern District of Virginia of reentering the U.S. without permission after having been removed, 8 U.S.C. 1326(a). The district court had denied his pretrial motion to dismiss for improper venue. Ayon-Brito argued that although the indictment alleged that he was first “encountered” after his reentry by officers in Virginia, it also alleged, as an element of the offense, that he was “found” in the Middle District of Pennsylvania where he was first accurately identified. He argued that the crime charged was committed in the Middle District of Pennsylvania, so that venue was appropriate only there; 8 U.S.C. 1329 establishes venue for a section 1326 violation in the district where the violation “occurred.”The Fourth Circuit affirmed the denial of the motion to dismiss. The violation of 1326(a) was a continuing offense that began when he reentered the U.S. and continued wherever he was present until he was found and arrested. Because “found” does not itself refer to an act or conduct of the defendant, it does not describe a conduct element; the crime at issue is “being in” the U.S. If Ayon-Brito believed that he faced prejudice or inconvenience, he could have sought a transfer; he did not. He elected a bench trial in Virginia and was dealt with fairly. View "United States v. Ayon-Brito" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit granted the petition for review of the BIA's final order of removal, holding that petitioner and his family sufficiently established persecution based on threats of death and harm by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, commonly known as FARC. Petitioner was a Colombian police officer who investigated FARC rebels.The court held that the BIA's determination that petitioner had not suffered past persecution was manifestly contrary to the law and constituted an abuse of discretion. In this case, petitioner had received multiple threats of death and harm to himself and his family from FARC. Furthermore, when an asylum applicant, such as petitioner, establishes that he has suffered past persecution, he is presumed to have a well-founded fear of future persecution. Because the BIA failed to apply this presumption, the BIA must reconsider the asylum application and apply the proper presumption. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Rodriguez Bedoya v. Barr" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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Wambura, a citizen of Tanzania, was a lawful U.S. permanent resident. Wambura pled guilty to a conspiracy to fraudulently secure a mortgage and obtain federally subsidized rent using a stolen identity. He was sentenced to 60 months' imprisonment and ordered to pay $434,867.65 in restitution. Removal proceedings (8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)) asserted that Wambura had been convicted of two crimes involving moral turpitude not arising out of a single scheme of criminal misconduct and had been convicted of an aggravated felony relating to an offense that involves fraud or deceit in which the loss to the victims exceeds $10,000.Wambura applied for asylum and withholding of removal and for protection under Convention Against Torture. The IJ concluded that Wambura was removable based on his aggravated felony and moral turpitude convictions and, because of those convictions, was ineligible for cancellation of removal or asylum. Due to the length of his sentence, Wambura was ineligible for withholding of removal. Pursuing deferral of removal under CAT, Wambura testified about his involvement with an opposition political party and claimed that his father told him he is being followed by the secret police. The IJ asked for corroborating evidence. Wambura claimed he was unable to provide it because he was unable to access his email account. The BIA affirmed a denial of relief.The Fourth Circuit remanded. Once the requirements for removability are met, the government does not have the burden to prove that the amount of loss caused by the fraud conviction is $10,000 or more for purposes of asylum and withholding of removal. An IJ is not required to provide an alien with advance notice of the need to offer corroborating evidence but must make a finding as to whether such corroborating evidence was reasonably available if it was not provided. View "Wambura v. Barr" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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Petitioner, a native and citizen of El Salvador, petitioned for review of the denial of her application for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). Petitioner claimed asylum and withholding of removal on the grounds that she suffered persecution as a member of a particular social group: "married El Salvadoran women in a controlling and abusive domestic relationship."The Fourth Circuit dismissed the petition in part because the court lacked jurisdiction over petitioner's numerous proposed social groups not presented to the agency. The court denied the petition for review on petitioner's asylum claim, holding that the Attorney General's ruling in Matter of A-B- is not arbitrary and capricious, and petitioner's social group runs afoul of the anti-circularity requirement. In this case, "married El Salvadoran women in a controlling and abusive domestic relationship" did not "exist independently of the harm asserted." Rather, the group was defined in terms of the very persecution alleged. Because petitioner's asylum claim fails, her claim for statutory withholding of removal must also fail under the heightened standard. Finally, petitioner's CAT claim failed because petitioner failed to establish that it is more likely than not that she would be tortured upon returning to El Salvador. View "Amaya-De Sicaran v. Barr" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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Cartagena was born in El Salvador in 1996. In 2013, her parents moved to the U.S. Cartagena remained in El Salvador with her newborn daughter and two siblings. Cartagena received a call from a man, calling himself her cousin, who told her to tell her parents "they have to send us $200.” He sent texts saying that if they didn’t send the money an unidentified gang would kill her siblings. Cartagena’s parents sent her money for the gang. The threats continued. Her parents were unable to meet increasing demands. Gang members came to the family home and cut Cartagena's nine-year-old brother with a knife, telling him that “his parents [had] to see.” They later returned and beat Cartagena and her brother and raped Cartagena, threatening to kill her daughter. Cartagena fled to the U.S. with her daughter and siblings.Cartagena sought asylum based on the persecution that was based on her membership to the Cartagena family social group. An IJ found her credible but concluded that she had failed to demonstrate that the persecution occurred on account of her group membership because “the primary motivation … was monetary gain.” The BIA agreed, finding that family members were harmed because of their failure to meet the extortion demands, rather than their family ties.The Fourth Circuit reversed. The IJ and BIA failed to consider important evidence that compels the conclusion that family membership was at least one central reason for the persecution. Their conclusions are contrary to law and inconsistent with the evidence of repeated statements that the money being extorted was from Cartegena’s parents and that the persecutors contacted her in order to communicate their threats to her parents. View "Hernandez-Cartagena v. Barr" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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The Fourth Circuit denied a petition for review of the BIA's decision affirming the IJ's denial of petitioner's application for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT), and ordering his removal from the United States to El Salvador. The court held that substantial evidence supported the findings that petitioner was not entitled to asylum and withholding of removal. In this case, the record does not compel the conclusion that the Salvadoran government was unwilling or unable to control MS-13. Therefore, the court must uphold the IJ and BIA's conclusion that petitioner does not qualify as a refugee under 8 U.S.C. 1102(a)(42)(A), and is ineligible for asylum and withholding of removal.The court also held that substantial evidence in the record supports the BIA's determination that petitioner was not eligible for CAT protection, and the BIA did not otherwise err in dismissing the appeal of the IJ's denial of petitioner's CAT application. In this case, the IJ did not commit legal error, much less an obvious one, in finding that petitioner failed to establish that it was more likely than not that he would be tortured in El Salvador with the consent or acquiescence of the government. View "Portillo-Flores v. Barr" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law