Justia U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Immigration Law

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Plaintiffs, immigrants, ages 18 to 21, fled war, violence, and persecution in their native countries to come to the U.S., arriving here since 2014. International refugee agencies resettled them in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. None are native English speakers. All fall within a subgroup of English language learners: “students with limited or interrupted formal education.” The School District administers numerous schools, including McCaskey High School, a traditional school that includes an International School program for English Language Learners, and Phoenix Academy, operated by Camelot Schools, a private, for-profit company under contract with the District. Phoenix is an accelerated program. Plaintiffs obtained a preliminary injunction, compelling the District to allow them to attend McCaskey rather than Phoenix, to which they had been assigned. The Third Circuit affirmed, finding likely violations of the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974 (EEOA), 20 U.S.C. 1703(f), which prohibits denial of equal educational opportunity on account of race, color, sex, or national origin. Plaintiffs showed a reasonable probability that Phoenix’s accelerated, non-sheltered program is not informed by an educational theory recognized as sound by some experts in the field; plaintiffs’ language barriers and resulting lost educational opportunities stem from their national origins. View "Issa v. Lancaster School District" on Justia Law

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Park, a citizen of South Korea, was ordered removed in 2009, in part for submitting fraudulent documents in support of his visa application. He claims that he subsequently became eligible for a “section 212(i)” waiver of inadmissibility. Because of the passage of time, the Board of Immigration Appeals could only reopen his removal proceedings through 8 C.F.R. 1003.2(a), the “sua sponte” reopening provision. The BIA employs that provision only in extraordinary circumstances; its discretion is broad. Park argued that the BIA has consistently reopened sua sponte for aliens who have become eligible for relief from removal after their cases have ended, thus establishing a “settled course of adjudication” that it is now bound to follow. The Third Circuit dismissed Park’s petition for lack of jurisdiction. Park neither showed nor established a reasonable inference that the BIA has constrained its discretion in a way that would allow judicial review of its decision denying sua sponte reopening. View "Park v. Attorney General United States" on Justia Law
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Mateo-Medina, a citizen of the Dominican Republic, was deported in 2012 after serving five months for unlawfully obtaining a U.S. passport. Shortly after his deportation, his common-law wife, Rasuk, a U.S. citizen with whom Mateo-Medina had lived for 15 years, was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Rasuk had two adult sons from a prior marriage, both drug addicts. One lived with the couple; the couple was raising the young child (Angel) of her other son. When Mateo-Medina learned of the diagnosis, he returned to the U.S. to care for Rasuk, who died in 2014. Mateo-Medina became Angel’s sole caretaker. Rasuk’s son reported Mateo-Medina to immigration authorities. He pled guilty to reentry after removal, 8 U.S.C. 1326(a); (b)(2). Mateo-Medina’s PSR calculated a sentence of eight-to-14 months’ imprisonment. Mateo-Medina had a 2000 DUI conviction, the 2012 fraudulent passport conviction, and six arrests that did not lead to conviction. The PSR did not contain any information about the conduct underlying those arrests. The court departed downward one level; the prosecutor and the defense argued for a sentence of time served (six months), the lower end of the Guidelines range. The court sentenced Mateo-Medina to 12 months plus one day. The Third Circuit vacated the sentence, finding that the court mischaracterized Mateo-Medina’s criminal history in a way that affected his sentence. View "United States v. Mateo-Medina" on Justia Law

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Rivas, a citizen of the Dominican Republic, was admitted to the U.S. as a legal permanent resident when he was two years old. In 2013, he was convicted of the purchase of PCP, and sentenced to 18 months’ probation. DHS initiated removal under 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(B)(i) for being convicted of two state law violations relating to a controlled substance. Rivas petitioned under the Pennsylvania Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA), arguing that his attorney failed to advise him of the possible immigration consequences of conviction and advised him not to appeal. Rivas’s counsel testified that he advised Rivas of the immigration consequences and that he “probably would have advised” an appeal was “not a winnable case.” The court denied the PCRA petition, vacated the guilty verdicts and placed Rivas on three years' probation under a deferred adjudication agreement. Rivas was required to “stipulate to all of the Commonwealth’s evidence.” The Commonwealth agreed to withdraw the charges if Rivas successfully completed his pretrial probation. Rivas unsuccessfully moved to terminate his removal proceedings. The IJ stated that “probably the only reason for the conviction vacatur” was to “avoid the [i]mmigration consequences.” The BIA agreed, adding that the order still was a “conviction” because Rivas stipulated to the evidence and had his liberty restrained. The Third Circuit granted his petition for review, stating that the Notice of Removal did not specify participation in a deferred adjudication program as a basis for removal. View "Rodriguez v. Attorney General United States" on Justia Law
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Singh, a citizen of India, was admitted as a lawful permanent resident in 2009. He ran convenience stores in Clearfield County, Pennsylvania. In 2011, state troopers searched his stores. Singh was charged with “the manufacture, delivery, or possession with intent to manufacture or deliver, a controlled substance,” conspiracy, and “[k]nowingly or intentionally possessing a controlled or counterfeit substance.” A “Negotiated Plea Agreement” described the counts as involving a “PA Counterf[e]it Substance – Non Fed.” At his plea colloquy, Singh pled guilty to “possession with intent to deliver a counterfeit substance under Pennsylvania law but not under federal law” and “criminal conspiracy to commit possession with the intent to deliver … designated a counterfeit substance, under Pennsylvania law but not under federal law. DHS began removal proceedings for being convicted of: an aggravated felony, 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(43)(B); “a violation of . . . any law or regulation of a State … relating to a controlled substance,” 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(B)(i); a “crime involving moral turpitude,” 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(i); and an aggravated felony, 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii). An IJ found Singh removable. Singh filed a stipulation from the Clearfield County District Attorney, indicating that: the Plea form is a standard form that “do[es] not constitute an admission of any specific facts” and that Singh “plead[ed] only to the delivery of an unidentified counterfeit substance under Pennsylvania law.” The BIA held Singh was removable for being convicted of an aggravated felony, without deciding whether Singh was removable under other sections. The Third Circuit vacated. Singh’s conviction does not sufficiently match the elements of the generic federal offense and was not for an aggravated felony. View "Singh v. Attorney Gen. of the United States" on Justia Law

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As a result of criminal convictions Immigration and Customs Enforcement sought removal of lawful U.S. permanent residents. Pending removal proceedings, each was detained under 8 U.S.C. 1226(c), which provides that if ICE has “reason to believe” that an alien is “deportable” or “inadmissible” by virtue of having committed a specified crime, that alien “shall” be taken into custody when released from detention for that crime, "without regard to whether the alien is released on parole, supervised release, or probation, and without regard to whether the alien may be arrested or imprisoned again for the same offense.” In a purported class action, the district court dismissed in part, holding that section 1226(c) did not violate substantive due process with respect to aliens who assert a substantial challenge to their removability. The court later held that the form giving aliens notice of their right to seek a hearing does not provide constitutionally adequate notice, that the government was required to revise the form, and that procedures for that hearing violate due process by not placing the initial burden on the government. The court then denied a motion to certify the class, stating that certification was “unnecessary” because “all aliens who are subjected to mandatory detention would benefit from the injunctive relief and remedies.” Stating that the district court “put the cart before the horse a,” the Third Circuit vacated. Once petitioners were released from detention, their individual claims became moot so the court retained jurisdiction only to rule on the motion for class certification—not to decide the merits issues. View "Gayle v. Warden Monmouth Cnty. Corr. Inst." on Justia Law

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The petitioners, 28 women and their minor children, are citizens of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. The entered the U.S. in 2015 and were apprehended close to the border. Each indicated a fear of persecution if returned to their native country, claiming that they had been or feared becoming victims of domestic or gang violence. Following interviews with an asylum officer and review by an immigration judge, their fears were found to be not credible and their expedited removal (8 U.S.C. 1225(b)(1)) orders became administratively final. Each filed a habeas petition. The Third Circuit affirmed dismissal of the petitions, finding that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction under 8 U.S.C. 1252.1, which circumscribes judicial review for expedited removal orders issued under section 1225(b)(1). The court rejected an argument under the Suspension Clause of the U.S. Constitution: “The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.” The court noted “Petitioners’ surreptitious entry into this country," and Congress’ and the Executive’s plenary power over decisions regarding the admission or exclusion of aliens, in concluding that the limited scope of review is not unconstitutional, as to petitioners and other aliens similarly situated. View "Castro v. United States Dept. of Homeland Sec." on Justia Law

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In 2009, Javier, a citizen of the Dominican Republic, entered the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident. In 2014 Javier was convicted, in Pennsylvania, for carrying a firearm in public and for making terroristic threats. An IJ concluded that Javier was removable under 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(i) as an alien convicted of a “crime involving moral turpitude” based on his conviction for terroristic threats and also removable under 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(C) as an alien convicted of a “firearm offense.” The BIA affirmed, based solely on Javier’s terroristic threats conviction, stating that the offense defined by 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. 2706(a)(1) involves “an intentional action whose goal is to inflict [] psychological distress [that follows an invasion of the victim’s sense of personal security which] violates the norms of society to such a degree as to constitute moral turpitude.” The BIA concluded that it “need not address” the firearms conviction. The Third Circuit dismissed an appeal. A threat communicated with a specific intent to terrorize is an act “accompanied by a vicious motive or a corrupt mind” so as to be categorically morally turpitudinous. View "Javier v. Attorney Gen. of the United States" on Justia Law

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Sunday, a citizen of Nigeria, was admitted to the U.S. in 1995 with permission to remain for a year. He overstayed and, in 2013, was charged as removable for overstaying and for committing certain crimes. An IJ held Sunday was removable based on his overstaying and on a bail jumping conviction. To avoid removal, Sunday applied for a U visa and petitioned USCIS for a waiver of inadmissibility, which was denied based on his criminal record. Sunday then applied for a waiver of inadmissibility from an IJ, under the Department of Justice, who determined that she lacked jurisdiction to consider Sunday’s request. The BIA affirmed, concluding that waivers regarding U visas are exclusively within the authority of USCIS, under the Department of Homeland Security, and cannot be granted by an IJ, and declining to consider a claim that removal constituted unconstitutionally disproportionate punishment. The Third Circuit denied a petition for review, noting that the Supreme Court has consistently held that removal is not punishment. View "Sunday v. Attorney Gen. of the United States" on Justia Law
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In 1984, during the crackdown on the Solidarity movement in Poland, Koszelnik traveled to the U.S. on a nonimmigrant tourist visa, then applied for political asylum. He was assigned an “A-number.” Koszelnik’s asylum application was denied and deportation proceedings were initiated. An IJ denied his application for relief from deportation and granted him voluntary departure. Koszelnik remained in the U.S. The voluntary departure order became a final deportation order. After residing in the U.S. for approximately 10 years, Koszelnik applied for a diversity visa through the lottery program. Koszelnik failed to include his A-number on his application and incorrectly answered questions about deportation proceedings. Unaware of the prior deportation proceedings, the INS issued Koszelnik a new A-number and, in 1995, granted him permanent resident status. Under 8 U.S.C. 1256(a), despite the error, the statute of limitations for re-examining that status adjustment lapsed after five years, in 2000.. In 2012, Koszelnik applied for naturalization, again failing to provide his original A-number and incorrectly answering questions about removal. The government discovered its earlier error and denied his application, finding that failure to disclose his prior removal order and his original A-number meant that he had failed to demonstrate that he was lawfully admitted for permanent residence under 8 U.S.C. 1429 and that he was ineligible for naturalization. The Third Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the government: Koszelnik failed to meet his burden of showing that he was lawfully admitted and was therefore not eligible for naturalization. View "Koszelnik v. Sec'y, Dept. of Homeland Sec." on Justia Law
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