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Unpub. CA5 U Visa Remand Victory: Espinal-Lagos v. Garland

August 26, 2021 (1 min read)

Espinal-Lagos v. Garland

"Kevelin Danery Espinal-Lagos and her two minor sons were ordered removed to Honduras by an Immigration Judge. While their appeal was pending before the Board of Immigration Appeals, the petitioners filed derivative U visa applications with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services that, if granted, would allow them to move to reopen their removal proceedings. Accordingly, the petitioners filed a motion requesting that the Board remand their case so that they could seek a continuance from the Immigration Judge pending the resolution of their derivative U visa applications. The Board dismissed their appeal and denied their motion to remand, reasoning that their “U-visa eligibility and the steps being taken in pursuit of a U-visa could have been discussed at the hearing before the Immigration Judge entered a decision.” For the narrow ground articulated herein, we hold that the Board abused its discretion in its reason for denying the petitioners’ motion to remand. ... Espinal-Lagos did not become prima facie “eligible” for a derivative U visa until her husband filed his U visa application with USCIS on July 6, 2018—several months after her hearing before the IJ on February 7, 2018. Indeed, during oral argument when asked, “When was Ms. Espinal-Lagos eligible for a U visa?”, the Government responded that she was “eligible when it’s filed”—“it” being Bethanco’s U visa application.1 The position the Government urges—that Espinal-Lagos should have disclosed to the IJ her potential future eligibility given the district attorney signature on her husband’s U visa certification— has no basis in the regulations. Therefore, the Board’s denial of Espinal-Lagos’s motion to remand was based on a legally erroneous interpretation of the governing regulations. Navarrete-Lopez, 919 F.3d at 953. The Board’s decision was also irrational because it required Espinal-Lagos to have presented information to the IJ that could not have been discovered or presented at that time. ... Because the Board abused its discretion in its single reason for denying Espinal-Lagos’s motion to remand, we grant the petition for review and REMAND to the Board for proceedings consistent with this opinion."

[Hats off to Vinesh Patel and Francisco Alvillar!]