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Avila-Ramirez v. Holder

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

August 21, 2014

CARLOS AVILA-RAMIREZ, Petitioner,
v.
ERIC H. HOLDER, JR., Attorney General of the United States, Respondent

Argued April 22, 2014

Page 718

Petition for Review of an Order of the Board of Immigration Appeals. No. A034-762-288.

For Carlos Avila-Ramirez, Petitioner: Charles Roth, Attorney, Chicago, IL.

For ERIC H. HOLDER, JR., Attorney General of the United States, Respondent: Sara Bayram, Attorney, OIL, Attorney, Department of Justice, Civil Division, Immigration Litigation, Washington, DC.

Before POSNER, WILLIAMS, and TINDER, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 719

Williams, Circuit Judge.

An immigration judge found Carlos Avila-Ramirez " credible" and gave " full weight to his testimony" at a hearing requesting discretionary relief from removal. That testimony included Avila-Ramirez's denial that he had committed any underlying wrongdoing during the times he had been arrested or questioned since 1990. He was never convicted of any crimes resulting from those arrests, and the police reports the government introduced at the hearing were uncorroborated. Yet the immigration judge and Board of Immigration Appeals relied on these uncorroborated arrest reports to find that Avila-Ramirez had failed to show " rehabilitation" after a 1990 conviction, and this failure was a significant factor in the decision to deny him discretionary relief from removal under former § 212(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. We conclude that in these circumstances, the BIA committed legal error by failing to follow its own binding precedent and giving substantial weight to an arrest report absent a conviction or corroborating evidence of the allegations contained therein. So we grant the petition for review.

I. BACKGROUND

Carlos Avila-Ramirez, a citizen of Guatemala, was lawfully admitted to the United States as a permanent resident in 1977 when he was about seven years old. He has remained in the United States ever since. After three years of high school, he joined the United States Marine Corps. He later obtained his GED, then attended Solano Community College in California and received a certification to become an optical technician. Avila-Ramirez has been consistently employed as an adult. Most recently, he worked for a cable company in Chicago, earning $77,000 in the year preceding his immigration hearing.

At the time of the June 2012 removal hearing, Avila-Ramirez had been engaged to his fiancé e, Gloria Espinosa, for about ten years. They live together in Chicago and also live with their son, who was born in 2003. Espinosa suffers from lupus and Sjögren's syndrome, both autoimmune disorders, as well as fibromyalgia. Although only thirty-three years old at the time of Avila-Ramirez's hearing, these diseases had already rendered her unable to work. She receives $1,296 in Social Security disability benefits for herself and her son, as well as $150 in food stamps for her son.

Avila-Ramirez's income helps support Espinosa and their son. In addition, because one of Espinosa's main symptoms is fatigue, Avila-Ramirez usually cleans the house and cooks. Avila-Ramirez and Espinosa both expressed their intent to marry. Avila-Ramirez also testified that if he were deported, Espinosa and their son would probably remain in the United States because of Espinosa's medical needs.

Avila-Ramirez's mother, brother, sister, grandmother, and uncles also live in the United States. Avila-Ramirez's mother receives Supplemental Security Income and lives with her mother in Chicago, and his sister lives about an hour away. His brother is in the United States Army and is stationed in Central America. Although his mother earns some income working at a drug store, Avila-Ramirez helps support her financially. He also takes her places because ...


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