Trump Appointee Rules in Favor of Deported Mother in Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals
On January 17, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled in favour of a Mexican mother of four who had been deported the previous year despite the fact that she had been threatened by a drug cartel in her native country. After new evidence following her father’s kidnapping, Maribel Trujillo Diaz had motioned the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) to reopen her proceedings. They rejected her appeal on the grounds that “she failed to show that she would be singled out individually for persecution based on her family membership”. After reviewing the BIA’s decision, a federal court in Cincinnati ordered immigration officials to review her case. Despite the fact that many see Trujillo Diaz’s case as an example of the Trump administration’s crackdown on immigration, the circuit court’s opinion was written by Judge John K. Bush, a conservative Trump appointee.
Maribel Trujillo Diaz first came to the United States in 2002 and subsequently had four children. Despite the fact that she had no criminal record, she was apprehended by ICE in 2007 and forced into removal proceedings. She was able to get work authorization and remained in the U.S. In 2012, she testified that she could not return to Mexico because of fear of persecution from the La Familia drug cartel, which had pressured her brother to join in 2010. He had refused and fled to the United States, and Trujillo Diaz feared retribution should she return home. However, since the cartel had not personally harmed or threatened her, the immigration judge denied her petition for asylum, and she did not file a petition for review.
In February 2017, Trujillo Diaz’s father was kidnapped by a different cartel called Knights Templar. According to his statement, they were looking for Trujillo Diaz’s brother because he had refused to join the La Familia cartel. They said they knew that both he and Trujillo Diaz had fled to the United States and they threatened “‘to hurt the rest of [his] family if they could not get their hands on Omar Daniel or Maribel’”. With new evidence of a personal grudge against her, Trujillo Diaz petitioned to have her case reopened. Just two days later she was apprehended by immigration officials and was deported eight days afterwards. In May 2017 the BIA reviewed her case and determined that she hadn’t shown sufficient evidence of being singled out for persecution or of changed-country-conditions.
The Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit determined that the only way the BIA could have reasonably decided that there was no evidence that Trujillo Diaz was being singled out individually was if they arbitrarily dismissed her father’s testimony. The court reasoned that this was an abuse of discretion and a failure to properly consider new evidence. The court decided against the BIA’s ruling and in favor of Trujillo Diaz, granting the petition and remanding to the BIA “for reconsideration consistent with this opinion”.
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