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CA11 on VAWA, "Extreme Cruelty," Chevron: Ruiz v. Atty. Gen. (UPDATED)

May 19, 2023 (1 min read)

Ruiz v. Atty. Gen.

"The Court sua sponte VACATES its prior opinion, published at 67 F.4th 1321 (11th Cir. 2023), and substitutes the following in its place. ... Esmelda Ruiz, a native and citizen of Peru, appeals the Board of Immigration Appeals’ determination that she is ineligible for relief under 8 U.S.C. § 1229b(b)(2), a provision whose language was originally adopted as part of the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 and that outlines the conditions under which certain “battered spouse[s] or child[ren]” qualify for discretionary cancellation of removal. As relevant here, it requires a petitioning alien to show that she “has been battered or subjected to extreme cruelty” by her spouse or parent. 8 U.S.C. § 1229b(b)(2)(A)(i). Ruiz contends that the Immigration Judge and the BIA made two errors in refusing her cancellation request. First, she maintains that, as a matter of law, they misinterpreted the statutory term “extreme cruelty” to require proof of physical—as distinguished from mental or emotional—abuse. And second, she asserts that, having misread the law, the IJ and the BIA wrongly concluded that she doesn’t qualify for discretionary relief. We agree with Ruiz that the IJ and the BIA misinterpreted § 1229b(b)(2) and thereby applied an erroneous legal standard in evaluating her request for cancellation of removal. Accordingly, we grant her petition for review and remand to the BIA for further consideration. ... For the foregoing reasons, we agree with Ruiz—and hold— that the BIA misinterpreted 8 U.S.C. § 1229b(b)(2). The term “extreme cruelty” does not require a petitioning alien to prove that she suffered physical abuse in order to qualify for discretionary cancellation of removal; proof of mental or emotional abuse is sufficient to satisfy the “extreme cruelty” prong of § 1229b(b)(2)’s five-prong standard. ... Accordingly, we GRANT the petition in part and REMAND to the BIA for further proceedings consistent with this opinion."

[Hats way off to Anabella Trujillo!  And listen to the oral argument here.]