Articles Posted in Case Law Updates

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In another recent decision that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has assigned to himself, the Attorney General has foreclosed refuge for countless immigrants attempting to escape domestic violence in their home countries.  In Matter of A-B-, 27 I&N Dec. 316 (A.G. 2018), the Attorney General overruled a Board of Immigration Appeals decision which granted asylum to the victim of domestic violence in El Salvador.  The Attorney General also overruled a binding Board of Immigration Appeals decision, Matter of A-R-C-G-, 26 I&N Dec. 388 (BIA 2014), which held that “married women in Guatemala who are unable to leave their relationship” could constitute a “particular social group.”


What is asylum?


Asylum is a discretionary benefit that can be granted to those who:

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In a disappointing decision by the Attorney General, a decision has been made on whether immigration judges and the Board of Immigration Appeals have discretion to administratively close deportation proceedings.  Matter of Castro-Tum, 27 I&N Dec. 271 (A.G. 2018) was decided on May 17th, 2018 after the Attorney General referred the issue to himself.


Why is the Attorney General making this decision?


The Attorney General has the authority to refer Board of Immigration Appeals decisions to himself to review. 8 C.F.R. §1003.1(h)(1)(i).  In this case, an Immigration Judge granted several continuances to a juvenile who had been issued a Notice to Appear for deportation proceedings.  The Notice to Appear that was handed to the juvenile did not give a date for a hearing.  Notice of the hearing was sent to the address provided by the juvenile.  When the juvenile didn’t appear for court, the immigration judge continued the case and ultimately administratively closed the case.  The government appealed and the Board of Immigration Appeals remanded the case for the Immigration Judge to proceed with the deportation proceedings and to issue an order of removal in absentia if the juvenile did not appear.  The Attorney General then referred the decision to himself.  The Attorney General’s decision is binding on the Board of Immigration Appeals, which is the appellate court that rules on all appeals from Immigration Judge decisions.

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A recent United States Supreme Court case will make it harder for the government to deport a non – United States citizen for being convicted of certain offenses.  In Atty Gen’l vs. Dimaya, the Supreme Court found that a provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act was overly broad and unconstitutional, thus rendering convictions for certain offenses no longer subject to removal.  In an extension of an already decided Supreme Court case, the Court analyzed 8 U.S.C. §1101(a)(43)(f), which defines an “aggravated felony” to include, among other things, “a crime of violence,” as defined in 18 U.S.C. §16, where a term of imprisonment of one year or more is rendered.  The case turned on the definition of a “crime of violence.”  Let’s take a look at the Supreme Court’s decision and how it affects immigration law.


What is a crime of violence?


First, we have to know what a “crime of violence” is.  Immigration law makes any non-citizen, including longstanding lawful permanent residents (LPRs) deportable if they are convicted of an “aggravated felony.”  Among other things, an “aggravated felony” includes a “crime of violence” with a sentence of 1 year or more.  So, what is a crime of violence?

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Immigration lawyers are talking about a new Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) decision that is out.  This case addresses how a DUI (Driving Under the Influence) arrest can result in not getting a bond in deportation proceedings. Whenever a person is placed in deportation/removal proceedings, the Immigration Judge will decide whether to issue a bond that will allow the person to get out of jail while the deportation case is going on.  If you have certain criminal convictions, you may not be eligible for a bond.  You must also establish that you are not a flight risk (risk to flee and not show up to court) and that you are not a danger to the community.  If you have a criminal record, even a criminal arrest that has been dropped, it can be difficult to convince an Immigration Judge to give you a bond.  The Board of Immigration Appeals has now made it even harder after overturning an Immigration Judge’s decision to give a bond to a person who had a DUI arrest and three prior DUI convictions ten years prior.

In Matter of Siniauskas, 27 I&N Dec. 207 (BIA 2018), the Board of Immigration Appeals overruled an Immigration Judge’s decision to give Mr. Siniauskas a $25,000 bond.  Mr. Siniauskas had three prior DUI convictions, but they were more than ten years prior to his last DUI arrest.  Mr. Siniauskas was in deportation proceedings because he overstayed his visa.  However, he had several equities in his favor.  He was married to a lawful permanent resident.  He had a United States citizen child.  He had maintained gainful employment and was a business owner.  Because of these equities the judge gave Mr. Siniauskas a bond of $25,000.  However, the Department of Homeland Security appealed and the Board of Immigration Appeals reversed.

The Board of Immigration Appeals stated that the alien, in this case, Mr. Siniauskas, must establish that he does not present a danger to persons or property, is not a threat to national security and is not a flight risk.  The Board stated Mr. Siniauskas’ positive factors may have established that he is not a flight risk, but they did nothing to convince the Board that he was not a danger to persons and property.  The Board stated that driving under the influence is a dangerous crime, and the immigration judge should consider the specific circumstances surrounding the alien’s conduct.

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The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has recently ruled that a conviction for Domestic Battery by Strangulation is categorically a crime of violence.  This means that any non-U.S. citizen who is sentenced to 1 year or more on a Florida Domestic Battery by Strangulation would be convicted of an “Aggravated Felony” for immigration purposes and would almost certainly be subject to mandatory deportation.  You can read the full decision here: United States v. Shawn Dixon, No. 17-10503


What is a Crime of Violence?


There are certain criminal convictions that are deadly to any non-U.S. citizen.  “Aggravated felonies” will lead to almost certain mandatory deportation in most cases.  A conviction for an aggravated felony is to be avoided at all costs.  Aggravated felonies are defined in the Immigration and Nationality Act in §101(a)(43).  One particular type of aggravated felony is a crime of violence where you have been sentenced to incarceration for 1 year or more. (INA §101(a)(43)(F)).  If you are incarcerated for 1 day less than 1 year for a crime of violence, it would not be an aggravated felony.  It still could crime involving moral turpitude or some other deportable offense, but it would not be an aggravated felony.

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Consider this:  You are a Lawful Permanent Resident who has lived in the United States for nearly your entire life.  You have always been in the United States legally.  One day, you get arrested for a crime you did not commit.  Or maybe you did violate the law, but it was a very minor charge and you have never been in trouble before.  Like so many United States citizens in the same situation, you are offered a pretrial intervention program.  That is, the prosecutor diverts your case from the court system, has you perform some community service, pay some fines, maybe take a class, and if you complete all of the requirements, they drop the charges.  Under the laws of the State of Florida, you would even be able to get the charge expunged from your record.  After all, the law in this land of opportunity is set up to give people second chances when they make a mistake.  So, you enter the pretrial diversion program, do everything you were asked to do, successfully complete it, and the charges are dropped.  All is well, right?

Well, not according to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA).  In a recent decision, the Board of Immigration Appeals held that even if a case is referred to a pretrial diversion program and ultimately dropped, it can serve as a conviction for immigration purposes and be used as the basis for deportation.  What? How can that be? Here is the thought process:


What is the definition of a “conviction” for immigration purposes? 

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Violation of an Injunction for Protection is a landmine for non citizens.  If you, or a loved one, is not a United States citizen and have been served with an injunction or charged with violating an injunction, call an experienced immigration attorney for a consultation.  Here’s why:

The Immigration and Nationality Act includes a provision that makes a non-citizen deportable if they have an injunction for protection (aka restraining order) against them and the court determines that person violated the injunction by engaging in the conduct the injunction was meant to prevent.  INA §237(a)(2)(E)(ii)


What is an Injunction for Protection?

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Over the last two months the Board of Immigration Appeals has released a handful of new published decisions. I have summarized them and provided my insight into what the cases mean for the immigration practitioner. Also, since my last post on the case of Maxi Sopo there has been a very interesting interpretation of the ruling. In my blog on that case https://www.floridaimmigrationlawyerblog.com/2016/06/eleventh_circuit_court_of_appe_1.html, I interpreted the decision to require that immigration attorneys who wished to have a bond hearing when their clients were detained for more than six months pre-final order, would have to go to federal court with a habeas action first. However, that is not how the ACLU interpreted the case and not how it is playing out in court. The ACLU practice advisory says that immigration attorneys who believe their clients have been detained unreasonably long, pre-final order, can file their bond motions directly with the immigration courts. https://www.aclu.org/legal-document/practice-advisory-prolonged-mandatory-detention-and-bond-eligibility-eleventh-circuit. That is a huge time and cost saver for clients. The ramifications of the Sopo case are still shaking out in practice, so I will try and keep you posted on what happens in the filed going forward.

Now, back to the summaries of the published BIA cases for the last few months:

Matter of Gonzalez Romo, 26 I&N Dec. 743 (BIA 2016):

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As a non-citizen in an immigration detention facility, you may or may not be eligible for release or a bond. Unlike in criminal court where you have a Constitutional right to a reasonable bond (with very few exceptions), in Immigration Court, an immigration judge often has no authority to grant you a bond in your case, even if you have never been arrested for a crime.

In our office, we handle many cases involving clients who are detained in immigration detention facilities. Some are in removal proceedings fighting to keep their green cards, obtain some form of immigration relief or are simply trying to get a bond so they can get out of detention. There are many ways that we can help a client get out of immigration detention, whether its by asking ICE to parole them from custody or grant them a bond, or filing a bond motion in immigration court or asking the ICE attorneys handling the case to agree to a bond. Now, we have another way to try and secure the release of clients detained for more than six months thanks to a new decision by the 11th Circuit.

You may ask, how is that fair, why am I not eligible or a bond? Let me explain the law on this issue. If you already have a final order of removal and the government detains you to execute that order, you are not eligible for a bond from an immigration judge. If you are stopped at a land border or airport or seaport and considered an arriving alien and detained, you are not eligible for a bond. If you are removable or inadmissible for almost any criminal ground of removability, you are not eligible for a bond. It makes no difference if you are a flight risk or a danger to the community; if the law says you are not eligible, there is nothing an immigration judge can legally do to grant you a bond.

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This part of the latest issue of the AILA Georgia-Alabama and Central and South Florida Chapter 11th Circuit Litigation Newsletter summarizes unpublished BIA decisions from Florida. The summarized cases are for April and May 2016.

This is a group effort of a number of attorneys – John Gihon, Marshall Cohen, Roberta Cooper, Kathleen Schulman, Mariana Munoz-Parsons and myself. I would like to commend everyone for their hard work. Any feedback from members may be sent to me, Bruce Buchanan of Sebelist Buchanan Law PLLC at bbuchanan@sblimmigration.com or John Gihon of Shorstein, Lasnetski & Gihon at John@slgattorneys.com.

Miami, FL