Barr, Immigration Board Chided by Appeals Court in Visa Case

Posted on 01/29/20

An undocumented Mexican immigrant who requested to seek a special visa for being a victim of a crime in the United states has been held up by U.S. Attorney General William Barr and the Board of Appeals. Both were berated by federal appeals court for thwarting its efforts in securing a special visa for the Mexican native. A three-judge panel was rebuffed by the Attorney General as a Chicago based appeals courts decisions waived the objectionable status of certain visa applicants with criminal convictions. The “board flatly refused to implement our decision,” the appeals court said. “We have never before encountered defiance of a remand order, and we hope never to see it again.”

The judges also stated that the visa applicant did not request the board members be held in contempt after their court appearance. Barr has come under fire for increasingly acting as a surrogate for President Donald Trump. Earlier this month, the New York City Bar Association asked Congress to investigate whether Barr’s actions are biased. The Justice declined to make any comments on the New York City Bars decision.

The dispute arose from Jorge Baez-Sanchez’s request for a “U Visa.” According to the appeals court ruling, Jorge would be inadmissible because of previous aggravated battery conviction on a police officer. Jorge was also a victim of a crime within the United States thus, applying for a U-Visa was his only hope to stay within the United States freely. To get the visa though, he required a waiver of inadmissibility. An immigration judge twice granted the request. The immigration board ruled the judge abused her discretion and said the power to waive inadmissibility belonged to the Attorney General and can’t be exercised by immigration judges. The appeals court sent the case back to the board for review due to two possibilities raised by Attorney General Barr.

“What happened next beggars belief,” the appeals court said. “The Board of Immigration Appeals wrote, on the basis of a footnote in a letter the Attorney General issued after our opinion, that our decision is incorrect.”

Instead of addressing the issues, the board just repeated its earlier claim that the Secretary of Homeland Security alone could issue U visas and should have the sole power to decide inadmissibility, the panel said.

“The board seemed to think that we had issued an advisory opinion, and that faced with a conflict between our views and those of the Attorney General it should follow the latter,” the court said. Barr argued the court should send the case back to the immigration board so it can decide whether an immigration judge can rule on an application for a nonimmigrant waiver, according to the appeals court. The panel called the request “bizarre,” since the appeals court already ruled immigration judges have the power.

The case won’t be resent to the board for reconsideration, the appeals court said. That “would do little besides give the board a free pass for its effrontery, while delaying the alien’s entitlement to a final decision.” The court canceled the board’s decision.