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Blockbuster CA4 Decision: Arevalo Quintero v. Garland

May 26, 2021 (2 min read)

This 62-page gem is a gold mine full of big, fat, shiny nuggets.  Before highlighting a few, hats way off to Susan Baker Manning and her team at Morgan Lewis, and Steven H. Schulman and his team at Akin Gump on behalf of the Round Table!  Here are the highlights:

"Petitioner argues that when a pro se respondent seeks asylum or withholding of removal based on his or her membership in a particular social group, the immigration judge has a duty to fully develop the record as to the factual bases for that claim and to help the respondent articulate a cognizable social group supported by those facts—to the extent that one can be found. We agree. ... [W]ith regard to particular social groups, we conclude that immigration judges must, at a minimum, adequately explain in plain language: what a particular social group is; the three elements of cognizability; what types of evidence may be potentially relevant to the applicant’s claim; and how the applicant may prove his or her eligibility for relief. Additionally, we agree with our sister circuits that immigration judges have a duty to explore for, probe into, and elicit all facts relevant to the applicant’s claim and potential social groups. ... Petitioner argues that W-Y-C-’s “exact delineation” requirement and forfeiture rule should not apply to pro se asylum seekers, and thus that the Board of Immigration Appeals’ application thereof in his case was error. We agree. ... [W]e hold that W-Y-C-’s exact-delineation requirement is inapplicable in pro se cases. ... Relatedly, we hold W-Y-C-’s forfeiture rule to be inapplicable to potential particular social groups that went unidentified or unarticulated in immigration court as a result of the immigration judge’s failure to fully develop the record as to a pro se asylum seeker’s claims. ... [W]e hold that immigration judges’ duty to fully develop the record entails an obligation to help pro se asylum seekers identify and delineate potentially viable particular social groups supported by their factual circumstances. Consistent with this holding, we further conclude that Matter of W-Y-C-’s exact-delineation requirement is inapplicable to pro se asylum seekers, and that the related forfeiture rule may not be enforced as to potential social groups that went unarticulated as a result of an immigration judge’s failure to fulfill the aforesaid duty. ... [W]e hold that an immigration judge’s failure to satisfy his or her duty to fully develop the record is presumptively prejudicial, unless the error is plainly irrelevant to, or otherwise does not hinder in any way, the reviewing court’s ability to assess whether prejudice occurred. ... In light of this and other errors made by the immigration judge and the Board of Immigration Appeals, we grant the petition, vacate Petitioner’s final order of removal, and remand to the Board of Immigration Appeals with instructions to remand the case to the immigration judge for further fact-finding and reconsideration of Petitioner’s application for withholding of removal and Convention Against Torture relief."