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

Articles Posted in Immigration Law
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The Fourth Circuit granted a petition for review of the BIA's order denying petitioner's asylum application and ordering his removal to Guatemala. The court held that petitioner established that the past persecution he suffered at the hands of the Guatemalan military was on account of a statutorily protected ground: his imputed political opinion. The court held that the evidence compelled the conclusion that petitioner has established the requisite nexus between his undisputed past persecution and imputed political opinion. In this case, petitioner credibly testified that he refused to engage in inhuman conduct as a conscripted teenager in the Guatemalan military (G-2 intelligence unit), including murdering an infant, and that he threatened to expose the G-2's human rights abuses. Consequently, he was confined to a hole in the ground for ten months. Furthermore, he credibly testified that while he was in the hole, G-2 soldiers mocked him with his own words—telling him to call human rights groups to defend him. View "Lopez Ordonez v. Barr" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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8 U.S.C. 1155 commits visa petition revocation decisions to the Secretary's discretion. Plaintiff and his stepson appealed the district court's dismissal of their complaint alleging that the USCIS unlawfully revoked their I-130 family visa petition. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint, holding that 8 U.S.C. 1155 is discretionary and thus the court lacked jurisdiction to review the agency's revocation due to 8 U.S.C. 1252(a)(2)(B)(ii). The court emphasized that the dismissal of these claims in this proceeding for lack of jurisdiction does not preclude this court, or any other court of appeals, from reviewing them under section 1252(a)(2)(D) upon a petition from a removal proceeding. View "Polfliet v. Cuccinelli" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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Petitioner sought withholding of removal and protection under the Convention Against Torture. The Fourth Circuit held that the Board erred in finding that the government rebutted the future-threat presumption. The court explained that it was the government's burden to prove either condition that rebuts the presumption, and the record did not support a finding that it did. Therefore, the court vacated the denial of withholding of removal and remanded for the agency to grant relief on this claim. The court affirmed the district court's denial of petitioner's CAT application, because the record supported the Board's finding that petitioner did not meet the burden of proof. In this case, a reasonable adjudicator would not be compelled to find that petitioner proved that there is more than a fifty-percent chance that petitioner's former partner would torture her and that Honduran law enforcement would turn a blind eye. View "Ortez-Cruz v. Barr" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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On rehearing en banc, the Fourth Circuit reversed the judgment and remanded with instructions to grant plaintiff's motion to set aside the agency's final action denying plaintiff special immigrant juvenile (SIJ) status. In this case, USCIS interpreted 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(27)(J) (i) to require a permanent custody order and thus denied plaintiff's SIJ application, dismissing his administrative appeal. The court held that the agency's rejection of plaintiff's SIJ provision -- that clause (i) requires a permanent custody order -- is entitled to no deference, defies the plain statutory language, and impermissibly intrudes into issues of state domestic relations law. Because the agency's interpretation of clause (i) was not in accordance with law, the court remanded to the agency to take another look at plaintiff's SIJ application. View "Perez v. Cuccinelli" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit denied a petition for review of the BIA's dismissal of petitioner's appeal of the IJ's denial of his application for asylum. The court held that the BIA's ruling, that petitioner's proposed social group -- merchants in the formal Honduran economy -- did not constitute a particular social group under the Immigration and Nationality Act, was not manifestly contrary to the law nor an abuse of discretion. View "Canales-Rivera v. Barr" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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The Fourth Circuit granted a petition for review of the BIA's decision affirming the IJ's rulings determining that petitioner's testimony was not credible. The court held that the Baltimore IJ failed to give petitioner an opportunity to testify and weigh the relevance of that testimony in conjunction with the entire record. The court declined to address whether the adverse credibility determination and denials of petitioner's applications for withholding of removal and relief under the Convention Against Torture were erroneous. Accordingly, the court vacated the BIA's summary affirmance of the IJ's rulings and remanded for reconsideration of petitioner's asylum claim, which included affording her an opportunity to testify and appropriate consideration of that testimony as well as any factual determinations. View "Atemnkeng v. Barr" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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The Fourth Circuit dismissed the petition for judicial review of the BIA's order denying petitioner's application for asylum. The court held that the BIA's July 9 remand order did not constitute a final order of removal within the meaning of 8 U.S.C. 1252, and thus the court lacked jurisdiction to consider the petition. In this case, the BIA remanded petitioner's case to the IJ for background checks, and thus the BIA order underlying the petition for judicial review was not a final order. View "Kouambo v. Barr" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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Plaintiff and his wife appealed the district court's denial of their complaint alleging that USCIS unlawfully rejected the Form I-130 petition for Alien Relative that plaintiff filed on behalf of his wife. The district court dismissed the complaint based on lack of jurisdiction. The Fourth Circuit held that the district court erred in dismissing the complaint for lack of jurisdiction, because the Administrative Procedure Act authorized plaintiff's claim and 8 U.S.C. 1252(a)(2)(B) did not strip the court of jurisdiction to determine whether I-130 petitions pending at the time the Adam Walsh Act amended 8 U.S.C. 1154 should be processed by USCIS under the former or amended version of the statute. However, the court affirmed the dismissal of the complaint and held that USCIS properly applied the Adam Walsh Act's amendments when adjudicating plaintiff's petition and nothing in the text of the amendments indicated that Congress did not intend for them to apply to pending I-130 petitions. In this case, the petition had been filed, but the agency had not yet approved or rejected it when the statutory amendments came into effect. Therefore, the court held that the amendments were not applied retroactively to a past decision or concerning past eligibility, but rather were applied to a then-pending decision regarding current eligibility for the requested relief. Finally, the court held that plaintiff's remaining arguments to the contrary lacked merit. View "Moore v. Frazier" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of petitioners, a class of noncitizens subject to reinstated removal orders, holding that they were detained under 8 U.S.C. 1226 because a decision on removal remains "pending" until their withholding-only proceedings are complete. The court read the plain text of the provisions at issue to ensure that they fit together to form a workable statutory framework, holding that section 1226 applies when there is still "pending" a legal determination that must be made before a noncitizen may be removed; and once there are no remaining legal impediments to removal, section 1231's 90-day removal period begins. The court explained that the government lacks the authority to actually execute orders of removal while withholding-only proceedings are ongoing and thus petitioners were detained under section 1226. Therefore, the court agreed with the district court that the relevant provisions of section 1226, rather than section 1231, govern petitioners' detention, entitling petitioners to individualized bond hearings. View "Guzman Chavez v. Hott" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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The Fourth Circuit granted a petition for review of the BIA's dismissal of petitioner's appeal in light of Matter of Castro-Tum, 27 I. & N. Dec. 271 (A.G. 2018). In Castro-Tum, the Attorney General concluded that IJs and the BIA do not have the general authority to administratively close cases. The court held that 8 C.F.R. 1003.10(b) and 1003.1(d)(1)(ii) unambiguously confer upon IJs and the BIA the general authority to administratively close cases. The court held that Castro-Tum was not entitled to Auer deference and, in the absence of such deference, the court applied Skidmore deference. In this case, the court explained that a court reviewing Castro-Tum for Skidmore deference would not be persuaded to adopt the agency's own interpretation of its regulation for substantially the same reasons it was not entitled to Auer deference: because it represents a stark departure, without notice, from long-used practice and thereby cannot be deemed consistent with earlier and later pronouncements. Therefore, the BIA's decision should be vacated and and remanded for further proceedings. View "Zuniga Romero v. Barr" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law