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

Articles 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
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The Fourth Circuit denied the petition for review of the BIA's decision dismissing petitioner's appeal of the IJ's finding that petitioner is statutorily ineligible for cancellation of removal because, during his first seven years of continuous residence after admission to the United States, he committed an offense listed in 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(2) that rendered him inadmissible.The Supreme Court held, in Barton v. Barr, 140 S. Ct. 1442 (2020), that conviction of an offense listed in Section 1182(a)(2) renders a lawful permanent resident "inadmissible" for purposes of Section 1229b(d)(1) even if he is not seeking admission. In this case, because petitioner committed such an offense during his initial seven years of residence after admission to the United States, and was later convicted of that offense, the court held that he is ineligible for cancellation of removal. View "Argueta v. Barr" on Justia Law

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The Immigration and Nationality Act states that any alien who is “likely at any time to become a public charge is inadmissible,” 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(4)(A) but has never defined “public charge.” The Department of Homeland Security sought to define “public charge,” via rulemaking, as an alien who was likely to receive certain public benefits, including many cash and noncash benefits, for more than 12 months in the aggregate over any 36-month period. The district court enjoined that Rule nationwide.The Fourth Circuit reversed. Invalidating the Rule “would visit palpable harm upon the Constitution’s structure and the circumscribed function of the federal courts that document prescribes” and would entail the disregard of the statute's plain text. The Constitution commands “special judicial deference” to the political branches in light of the intricacies and sensitivities inherent in immigration policy. Congress has charged the executive with defining and implementing a purposefully ambiguous term and has resisted giving the term the definite meaning that the plaintiffs seek. The court noted that, in cases addressing the identical issue, the Supreme Court granted the government’s emergency request to stay the preliminary injunctions, an action which would have been improbable if not impossible had the government, as the stay applicant, not made “a strong showing that it was likely to succeed on the merits.” View "Casa De Maryland, Inc. v. Trump" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit granted a petition for review of the BIA's decision finding that petitioner was removable because he had been convicted of two crimes involving moral turpitude. The court held that neither of petitioner's convictions for leaving an accident in violation of Va. Code Ann. 46.2–894 and for use of false identification in violation of Va. Code Ann. 18.2–186.3(B1) is categorically a crime involving moral turpitude. The court explained that petitioner's failure-to-stop conviction lacked the required culpable mental state and there is no morally reprehensible conduct. Regardless of the required culpable mental state, the court was not convinced that the offense of false identification has the required moral reprehensible conduct to qualify as a crime involving moral turpitude. Accordingly, the court vacated the BIA's order of removal and remanded with instructions that the government be directed to return petitioner to the United States. View "Nunez-Vasquez v. Barr" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit held that petitioner's prior misdemeanor conviction under Virginia Code 18.2-280(A), for willful discharge of "any firearm" in a public place without resulting bodily injury, qualifies as a federal "firearm offense" for purposes of removal under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(C). The court held that the plain language of the Virginia statute, as supported by later acts of Virginia's legislature and by decisions of its appellate courts, prohibits conduct involving the use of a "any firearm," including antique firearms. Therefore, petitioner was not required to identify a prosecution under the Virginia statute involving an antique firearm to defend against removal. Accordingly, the conduct punishable under Virginia Code 18.2-280(A) is broader than the conduct encompassed by the federal definition of a "firearm offense." View "Gordon v. Barr" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, a native and citizen of El Salvador, petitioned for review of the BIA's final order of removal affirming the IJ's denial of his application for asylum and other forms of relief. Petitioner claimed that he was persecuted and fears future persecution on account of his family ties.The Fourth Circuit dismissed the petition for review in part, holding that petitioner's jurisdictional argument -- that because his initial notice to appear did not include a time or date for a hearing, the immigration court lacked jurisdiction over his removal proceeding -- is squarely foreclosed by the court's recent opinion in United States v. Cortez, 930 F.3d 350, 355 (4th Cir. 2019), which was issued only after the parties' briefing in this case. The court denied the petitioner for review in part, holding that substantial evidence supports the determination of the IJ and BIA that petitioner has not met his burden of showing eligibility for asylum. In this case, the record does not compel the conclusion that family membership was at least one central reason why petitioner was threatened by his brother's attackers. Therefore, petitioner cannot satisfy the nexus requirement and is not eligible for asylum. View "Cedillos-Cedillos v. Barr" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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Plaintiffs alleged that Proclamation 9645, which imposed certain restrictions on the entry of individuals from eight countries, violates their rights under the Establishment Clause, as well as under other clauses of the Constitution, because it lacks a rational relationship to legitimate national security concerns and is motivated solely by anti-Muslim animus.The government filed a motion to dismiss plaintiffs' complaints for failure to state a claim based mainly on the Supreme Court's recent decision in Trump v. Hawaii, 138 S. Ct. 2392 (2018), which reversed a preliminary injunction against the enforcement of Proclamation 9645 that had been issued on facts that are essentially the same as those alleged here. The Hawaii Court held that the government had "set forth a sufficient national security justification to survive rational basis review" and thus plaintiffs had not demonstrated that they were likely to succeed on the merits of their claims.The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's judgment and held that the district court misunderstood the import of the Supreme Court's decision in Hawaii and the legal principles it applied. The court held that Proclamation 9645 restricts the entry of foreign nationals from specified countries, giving reasons for doing so that are related to national security, and it makes no reference to religion. In this case, although the district court agreed that the Mandel standard is controlling, it failed to apply the standard of review properly, moving past the face of the Proclamation to consider in its analysis external statements made by President Trump. The court proceeded beyond consideration of only the facially stated purposes of Proclamation 9645 and determined whether plaintiffs have alleged plausible constitutional claims under the rational basis standard of review. Under the rational basis standard, plaintiffs' constitutional claims failed because the Proclamation was plausibly related to the Government's stated objective to protect the country and improve vetting processes. The court remanded with instructions to dismiss the complaints. View "International Refugee Assistance Project v. Trump" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit denied petitions for review of the BIA's final order of removal. Applying the modified categorical approach, the court held that defendant's prior conviction for distribution of cocaine under Virginia Code 18.2-248, including distribution of that substance as an accommodation under Virginia Code 18.2-248(D), satisfies the federal definitions of an "aggravated felony" and of a crime "relating to a controlled substance" pursuant to 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii), 1227(a)(2)(B)(i). The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying petitioner's motion to reconsider. View "Cucalon v. Barr" on Justia 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