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Immigration Law

BIA on In Absentia, Reopening, Exceptional Circumstances: Matter of S-L-H & L-B-L-

Matter of S-L-H- & L-B-L-, 28 I&N Dec. 318 (BIA 2021)

(1) Immigration Judges may exercise their discretion to rescind an in absentia removal order and grant reopening where an alien has established through corroborating evidence that his or her late arrival at a removal hearing was due to “exceptional circumstances” under section 240(e)(1) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. § 1229a(e)(1) (2018), and, in doing so, should consider factors such as the extent of the alien’s tardiness, whether the reasons for the alien’s tardiness are appropriately exceptional, and any other relevant factors in the totality of the circumstances.

(2) Corroborating evidence may include, but is not limited to, affidavits, traffic and weather reports, medical records, verification of the alien’s arrival time at the courtroom, and other documentation verifying the cause of the late arrival; however, general statements—without corroborative evidence documenting the cause of the tardiness—are insufficient to establish exceptional circumstances that would warrant reopening removal proceedings. Matter of S-A-, 21 I&N Dec. 1050 (BIA 1997), reaffirmed and clarified.

[Hats off to Farhad B. Sethna!]