969 F.3d 814 (7th Cir. 2020), 19-1669, Salazar-Marroquin v. Barr

Docket Nº:19-1669
Citation:969 F.3d 814
Opinion Judge:Hamilton, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:Alejandro SALAZAR-MARROQUIN, Petitioner, v. William P. BARR, Attorney General of the United States, Respondent.
Attorney:Matthew Scott Kriezelman, Attorney, Kriezelman Burton & Associates, Chicago, IL, for Petitioner. Giovanni B. Di Maggio, Oil OIL, Attorneys, Department of Justice, Civil Division, Immigration Litigation, Washington, DC, for Respondent.
Judge Panel:Before Hamilton, Brennan, and Scudder, Circuit Judges. Scudder, Circuit Judge, with whom Brennan, Circuit Judge, joins, concurring.
Case Date:August 13, 2020
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

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969 F.3d 814 (7th Cir. 2020)

Alejandro SALAZAR-MARROQUIN, Petitioner,


William P. BARR, Attorney General of the United States, Respondent.

No. 19-1669

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

August 13, 2020

Argued December 18, 2019.

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On Petition for Review of an Order of the Board of Immigration Appeals. No. A089-283-631.

Matthew Scott Kriezelman, Attorney, Kriezelman Burton & Associates, Chicago, IL, for Petitioner.

Giovanni B. Di Maggio, Oil OIL, Attorneys, Department of Justice, Civil Division, Immigration Litigation, Washington, DC, for Respondent.

Before Hamilton, Brennan, and Scudder, Circuit Judges.

Hamilton, Circuit Judge.

Under immigration law, it can make a big difference whether a non-citizen entered the United States legally or not. For petitioner Alejandro Salazar-Marroquin and his family, the difference is whether his marriage to a United States citizen makes him at least legally eligible for an adjustment of status that might allow him to remain in the United States lawfully. 8 U.S.C. § 1255(a). If he is not eligible and is removed after having failed to appear for his removal hearing in 2011, he will be inadmissible to the United States for five years after his removal. 8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(6)(B).

The question of how petitioner entered the United States can be reached, however, only if petitioner can overcome several procedural obstacles, so we need to review the progress of his case in some detail. We conclude that under Fuller v. Whitaker, 914 F.3d 514 (7th Cir. 2019), petitioner is entitled to have the Board of Immigration Appeals take a fresh look at his motion to have his case reopened based on evidence that he entered legally, despite the generally applicable time-and-number limits on motions to reopen.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

Petitioner Salazar-Marroquin is a Mexican citizen. He says that he entered the United States with a B-2 visitor's visa in 2000 when he was 16 years old, but he stayed despite the expiration of his visa. In 2010 he was arrested for driving without a license and was referred to the Department of Homeland Security.

The Department personally served petitioner with a Notice to Appear charging him as removable as an alien present in the United States without having been properly admitted. See 8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(6)(A)(i). The Notice to Appear contained what was at the time standard boilerplate language. Instead of specifying a time and date for his removal hearing, it said only "to be set." See Ortiz-Santiago v. Barr, 924 F.3d 956, 958 (7th Cir. 2019) (describing process by which time-and-date information is provided later in a Notice of Hearing).

Petitioner then received two Notices of Hearing, causing confusion, he says, that led him to miss his removal hearing. The first notice, sent in August 2010, a month after the Notice to Appear, set his removal hearing for January 10, 2012, more than a year later. The second, sent in January 2011, re-set the hearing for an earlier date, February 15, 2011, only five weeks after the notice.

Petitioner failed to show up at the rescheduled hearing. He was ordered removed in absentia. The immigration judge found that the Department had established the allegations in the Notice to Appear— that Salazar-Marroquin was an alien in the country without having been admitted. The finding was based on information contained in a document called the "Record of Deportable/Inadmissible Alien." The judge ordered petitioner removed to Mexico based on this charge.

Petitioner filed two motions to reopen the proceedings. In the first, filed in 2011 just days after the removal hearing and order, he asserted that he had been confused about his hearing date owing to the two notices. The judge denied the motion, finding that petitioner had not shown that his failure to appear was due to lack of notice or "exceptional circumstances" as defined in 8 U.S.C. § 1229a(b)(7) & (e)(1). The Board denied his appeal.

In his second motion to reopen, filed in 2012 directly with the Board, petitioner argued that he may be eligible for prosecutorial discretion based on an unspecified

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memorandum recently issued bye the Department — presumably a reference to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. This too was denied.

In 2018, and represented by new counsel, petitioner filed the motion that is the subject of this petition for judicial review. This was his third motion to reopen his removal proceedings and to vacate his removal order. For the first time, he asserted that he had been charged incorrectly back in 2010 as removable because, instead of entering the country illegally, he had been admitted on a B-2 visa and had never left. He supplemented his motion with an affidavit and copies of a visa and his passport bearing a stamp from U.S. immigration authorities showing that he entered the country legally in Laredo, Texas, on August 11, 2000.

Because he was not removable as charged, petitioner argued, his ten years' continuous presence here should allow him to seek cancellation of removal if the proceedings were terminated and a new Notice to Appear were issued. He also asserted that he should be allowed to seek adjustment of status based on his recent marriage to a U.S. citizen. See 8 U.S.C. § 1255(a).

Petitioner gave two reasons why his removal proceedings should be reopened. First, he said exceptional circumstances caused his failure to appear, and time-and-number limits on the motion should be equitably tolled. See 8 U.S.C. § 1229a(b)(5)(C)(i) & (c)(7). He does not renew that argument on judicial review.

Second, he argued that a miscarriage of justice would result "since [he] was never removable as charged and since he is prima facie eligible for adjustment of status." As for this latter basis, he argued that exceptional circumstances justified reopening the proceedings based on the Board's sua sponte authority. The Department opposed the motion, arguing that petitioner had exceeded the time-and-number limits on motions to reopen and did not merit discretionary relief.1

A month later, Salazar-Marroquin filed a supplemental motion to terminate his removal proceedings based on Pereira v. Sessions, ___ U.S. ___, 138 S.Ct. 2105, 2113-14, 201 L.Ed.2d 433 (2018), which held that a Notice to Appear lacking the specific time or place of the removal proceedings was deficient under 8 U.S.C. § 1229(a)(1)(G) and thus did not trigger the "stop-time" rule under 8 U.S.C. § 1229b(d)(1). Petitioner's 2010 Notice to Appear was similarly deficient. He argued that the immigration judge thus lacked jurisdiction over his proceedings, which should be terminated. The Department opposed the motion, asserting that it was time-barred and based on a faulty interpretation of Pereira.

In a brief order, the Board denied petitioner's 2018 motion to reopen. Characterizing the motion as a request "to have the proceedings reopened in order to pursue adjustment of status based upon a petition filed ... by his [wife]," the Board rejected the motion because it was untimely and did not meet any of the time-limit exceptions.

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The Board added that it declined to exercise its sua sponte authority to grant the "motion to pursue adjustment of status" because petitioner's situation was not exceptional and the Board lacked the "power to grant equitable remedies or to confer general humanitarian relief on aliens." In a footnote, the Board denied the motion to terminate the removal proceedings, distinguishing...

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