Justia U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Immigration Law
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The case involves a 52-year-old native of the Dominican Republic, G.P., who unlawfully entered the United States twice and was convicted for drug trafficking both times. After serving his sentence for the second conviction, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) intended to remove him again. However, G.P. expressed fear of retaliation in the Dominican Republic due to his cooperation with the government in prosecuting the leader of the drug trafficking organization. An asylum officer found his fear credible and placed him into withholding-only proceedings. G.P. applied for deferral of removal under the Convention Against Torture (CAT), but his application was denied by an immigration judge (IJ) and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). G.P. appealed the decision, and the case was remanded for further consideration of his CAT claim.While his CAT claim was pending, G.P. was held in immigration detention. He brought an application for a writ of habeas corpus, arguing that there was "no significant likelihood of removal in the reasonably foreseeable future," and that he should therefore be released subject to supervision. The district court disagreed, and G.P. appealed.The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court found that G.P.'s situation was distinguishable from the case of Zadvydas v. Davis, which G.P. cited as precedent. The court noted that G.P.'s detention was not indefinite or potentially permanent, as his CAT proceedings were still pending and there was no indication of bad faith or undue delay by the agency. Furthermore, G.P. did not dispute that if he was ultimately denied relief, the government would be able to remove him to the Dominican Republic. Therefore, the court concluded that G.P. had failed to show that there was "no significant likelihood of removal in the reasonably foreseeable future." View "G.P. v. Garland" on Justia Law

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The case involves an Indonesian family, Edwin Kurniawan Tulung, Elizabeth Angelia Karauwan, and their son Enrico Geraldwin Tulung, who fled to the United States in 2004 due to fear of persecution for their Christian faith. They entered the US on tourist visas and applied for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). Their application was denied by an Immigration Judge in 2009, a decision affirmed by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) in 2011 on the grounds that past harm did not rise to the level of persecution and future persecution was not sufficiently likely. The family's petition for review was denied in 2012.The family filed their first motion to reopen based on changed country conditions in 2014, which was denied by the BIA. They did not appeal. In 2020, they filed their second motion to reopen, which was also denied by the BIA. Again, they did not seek judicial review. Instead, they filed three motions in 2022: a third motion to reopen, a motion to reconsider the denial of the second motion to reopen, and a motion to amend the second motion to reopen. The BIA denied all three motions.The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed the BIA's denial of the motions to reconsider and amend. However, it found that the BIA committed an error of law in reviewing the motion to reopen. The court held that the BIA incorrectly disregarded evidence by comparing it to conditions at the time of the previous motion to reopen, rather than at the time of the original merits hearing. The court vacated the BIA's denial of the motion to reopen and remanded for further proceedings. View "Tulung v. Garland" on Justia Law

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The case involves Hartono Djokro and his son William Djokro, citizens of Indonesia who entered the United States as nonimmigrant visitors and overstayed their visas. In 2007, Hartono Djokro filed an application for asylum, withholding of removal, and relief under the Convention Against Torture (CAT), including his son as a derivative applicant. They were served with notices to appear by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2008, charging them with removability for having remained in the United States longer than they had been authorized.In 2009, an immigration judge (IJ) denied their applications for asylum, withholding of removal, and relief under the CAT. The IJ found that the petitioners were ineligible for relief on several grounds, including that they had failed to establish a pattern or practice of persecution against either Chinese or Christians in Indonesia. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) upheld the IJ's decision in 2012. The petitioners' first motion to reopen was denied by the BIA in 2013.In the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, the petitioners sought review of the BIA's denial of their second untimely motion to reopen, filed in 2021. The court denied the petition, finding that the BIA reasonably concluded that the petitioners had failed to satisfy the requirements for an exception to late filing. The court held that the BIA did not abuse its discretion in finding that the petitioners failed to establish changed conditions or circumstances material to their eligibility for asylum or withholding of removal. The court found that the record amply supported the BIA's determination that the petitioners had not met their burden of showing that the exception for changed country conditions applies. View "Djokro v. Garland" on Justia Law

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A family from Guatemala sought asylum in the United States after receiving death threats from a local gang. The family, led by Ana Luisa Donis-Hernandez de Cabrera, had fled their home country after an extortion attempt by the Mara 18 gang. Cabrera had opened a second-hand clothing store, which she ran from her home. After receiving a death threat demanding payment, the family decided to leave Guatemala and seek asylum in the U.S.The Immigration Judge (IJ) denied their applications for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT), finding them lacking in certain crucial respects. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) affirmed this decision. Cabrera and her family then filed a petition for review with the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.The Court of Appeals found no reversible error in the decisions of the lower courts. The court noted that to be granted asylum, the applicant must demonstrate that they were persecuted in the past or have a well-founded fear of future persecution in their home country on account of at least one of five statutorily protected characteristics. The court found that Cabrera's proposed particular social group (PSG) of "small business owners" did not meet the requirements for a legally cognizable PSG. The court also found that Cabrera's evidence was insufficient to establish her burden of proof for CAT protection. Therefore, the court denied the petition for review. View "Cabrera v. Garland" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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In a case involving an Egyptian petitioner, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit reviewed the denial of the petitioner's claim for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT) by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). The petitioner, a Coptic Christian and Egyptian citizen, claimed he experienced persecution based on his religion. He was beaten and subjected to demands for conversion to Islam after he refused to alter a sensitive medical test result relating to a Muslim religious leader's family.The Court found that the BIA failed to correctly apply the "one central reason" test for motive in asylum claims. The Court ruled that the petitioner's religion was at least one central reason for his persecution. The Court also held that the BIA applied the wrong standard of review to the IJ’s conclusion on the petitioner’s CAT claim.The Court, however, upheld the BIA's conclusion that the petitioner's experiences of verbal harassment and rock-throwing did not rise to the level of persecution. The case was remanded for further proceedings consistent with the Court's opinion. View "Khalil v. Garland" on Justia Law

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The case concerns a review petition filed by Mariela Gricelda Chun Mendez and her minor son, natives and citizens of Guatemala. They sought review of the final order of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), which upheld the Immigration Judge's (IJ) denial of asylum and withholding of removal under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). The petitioners had fled Guatemala due to violence between their village and the neighboring municipality over land and water rights.The BIA had affirmed the IJ's findings that Chun Mendez did not establish extraordinary circumstances to excuse the late filing of her asylum application and that she did not demonstrate membership in the particular social group (PSG) she had defined for the agency. The court, after a careful review of the case, denied the petition.Chun Mendez claimed she was a member of the PSG of "communal landowners of Ixchiguán, Guatemala that refused to cooperate with criminal gangs." However, she conceded that she did not communally own the land. The court agreed with the government that Chun Mendez failed to exhaust her claim of imputed membership in the PSG before the BIA.Additionally, Chun Mendez alleged that the IJ and BIA failed to meaningfully assess her asylum and withholding of removal claims based on her race as an indigenous woman of Mam descent. However, the court found these race-based claims unexhausted, as Chun Mendez did not raise any race-based claim before the BIA. Consequently, the court denied the petition for review. View "Chun Mendez v. Garland" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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Sara Esteban-Garcia, a native and citizen of Guatemala and an indigenous woman of Mam descent, petitioned for review of a decision by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) which affirmed an immigration judge's order denying her application for asylum and claim for withholding of removal under sections 208 and 241(b)(3)(A) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Esteban-Garcia had fled Guatemala after a man she had been romantically involved with, along with his friends, demanded she become a prostitute or sell drugs to earn money for them. The immigration judge and the BIA found that Esteban-Garcia had failed to establish a nexus between the harm she experienced and a statutorily protected ground. On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit held that the record did not compel a contrary conclusion. It noted that the petitioner consistently stated the reason why her alleged persecutors wanted her to become a prostitute and drug seller was so that they could benefit financially, which is not a protected ground. Therefore, the court denied the petition for review. View "Esteban-Garcia v. Garland" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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Ricardo Jose Pineda-Maldonado, a native and citizen of El Salvador, sought review of a decision by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) that denied his application for asylum and claims for withholding of removal and protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). He entered the United States without inspection in 2016, following threats and physical harm from "cattle thieves" who had previously murdered his father over a gambling-related financial debt. The cattle thieves subsequently targeted Pineda-Maldonado and his brother for the father's debt and also out of fear that they would seek reprisals for their father's murder. The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit determined that the BIA's denial of Pineda-Maldonado's claims was not supported by substantial evidence and failed to adequately assess the evidence presented. The court found that the BIA had failed to consider whether the threats Pineda-Maldonado received constituted past or potential future torture, and also failed to find the required nexus between the persecution Pineda-Maldonado experienced and his family status. The court granted the petition, vacated the BIA's decision, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Pineda-Maldonado v. Garland" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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After a gang stole livestock from his Guatemalan farm and threatened his life, Juan Jose Espinoza-Ochoa fled to the United States and sought asylum based on his status as a landowning farmer. The Immigration Judge (IJ) and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) denied Espinoza-Ochoa's application on the grounds that he had not established that the persecution was motivated by a protected ground and that his defined social group was "impermissibly circular." The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit disagreed with these findings, stating that a social group's reference to harm does not resolve its legal validity on its own and requires further substantive analysis. The Court found that the BIA had committed legal errors both in its particular social group analysis and in failing to consider whether being a landowning farmer was a central reason for Espinoza-Ochoa's persecution. Therefore, the Court granted Espinoza-Ochoa's petition, vacated the BIA's decision, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Espinoza-Ochoa v. Garland" on Justia Law

Posted in: Immigration Law
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The First Circuit affirmed the decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) affirming the immigration judge's (IJ) denial of Petitioner's applications for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT), holding that Petitioner was not entitled to relief.Petitioner, who was from Nepal, sought relief based on claims that she experienced past persecution and had a well-founded fear of future persecution at the hands of Maoist insurgents on account of political opinion and membership in a particular social group, in particular, her nuclear family. The IJ granted Petitioner's application for voluntary departure but denied her claims for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the CAT. The BIA affirmed. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the lower agencies did not err in concluding that Petitioner failed to establish that the Nepali government was unwilling or unable to protect her. View "Singh v. Garland" on Justia Law