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Chen v. Lynch

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

June 9, 2016

XIAO HE CHEN and LING YU LUO, Petitioners,


          Gary J. Yerman on brief for petitioners.

          Benjamin C. Mizer, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Terri J. Scadron, Assistant Director, Office of Immigration Litigation, Civil Division, United States Department of Justice, and Christina P. Greer, Trial Attorney, Office of Immigration Litigation, on brief for respondent.

          Before Howard, Chief Judge, Selya and Lynch, Circuit Judges.

          SELYA, Circuit Judge.

         The sole question in this immigration case is whether the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) abused its discretion in declining to reopen the petitioners' removal proceedings. We answer that question in the negative and deny the petition for judicial review.

         The historical facts and travel of the case are susceptible to succinct summarization. The petitioners (Xiao He Chen and her husband, Ling Yu Luo) are Chinese nationals. Early in 2000, Chen entered the United States illegally. Her husband, Luo, followed on October 17, 2002, entering the country by means of a visitor's visa that granted him permission to remain until April 16, 2003. Luo overstayed, and the couple married on December 18, 2008. Meanwhile, Chen became an active participant in the China Democracy Party Foundation (CDP), a group committed to political reform in China. Luo also became a member of the CDP.

         In 2009, federal authorities instituted removal proceedings against both petitioners. Later that year, the petitioners conceded removability, and an immigration judge (IJ) found Chen removable under 8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(6)(A)(i) (for being present in the United States without having been lawfully admitted or paroled) and found Luo removable under 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(1)(B) (for remaining in the United States longer than permitted).

         What remained were the petitioners' applications for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT).[1] These entreaties centered on the petitioners' claim that, if repatriated, they would be subject to persecution (or worse) because of their pro-reform political activities in the United States.

         Following a merits hearing held on May 10, 2010, at which Chen (but not Luo) testified, the IJ delivered a bench decision denying all three kinds of requested relief. The IJ did not find Chen credible, did not find the evidence sufficient to support asylum, and did not find that the petitioners had carried their burden of proving either of their other claims.

         The petitioners unsuccessfully appealed to the BIA. When notified of the BIA's decision, they abjured judicial review and instead filed a timely motion to reopen and reconsider. They submitted an amended motion on January 30, 2012, attaching a variety of supporting documents. The BIA denied the amended motion on May 21, 2012. Once again, the petitioners eschewed the filing of a petition for judicial review.

         Roughly three years passed. In the spring of 2015, the petitioners filed a second motion to reopen. They argued changed country circumstances and attached a trove of documents (including country conditions reports, news articles, and family correspondence). The BIA denied the motion, concluding that it was time-and-number barred and that the "changed country circumstances" exception did not apply. The petitioners then filed the instant petition for judicial review.

         We need not tarry. The petition before us solicits our review of the BIA's order denying the latest motion to reopen. Motions to reopen are disfavored in immigration practice, and for good reason: there is a compelling public interest in both finality and the expeditious processing of immigration proceedings. See INS v. Abudu, 485 U.S. 94, 107 (1988); Falae v. Gonzales, 411 F.3d 11, 14 (1st Cir. 2005). As a result, the BIA "enjoys considerable latitude in deciding whether to grant or deny such a motion." Raza v. Gonzales, 484 F.3d 125, 127 (1st Cir. 2007). Consequently, we review the BIA's denial of a motion to reopen solely for abuse of discretion. See INS v. Doherty, 502 U.S. 314, 323 (1992); Zhang v. INS, 348 F.3d 289, 292 (1st Cir. 2003). Under that deferential standard, we will affirm the BIA's order unless the petitioners show "that the BIA committed an error of law or 'exercised its judgment in an arbitrary, capricious, or irrational way.'" Jutus v. Holder, 723 F.3d 105, 110 (1st Cir. 2013) (quoting Raza, 484 F.3d at 127).

         For present purposes, it is important to note that this case involves the disposition of the petitioners' second motion to reopen. An alien who aspires to reopen removal proceedings is usually limited to only a single motion to reopen, which must be filed within 90 days of the final agency order. See 8 C.F.R. § 1003.2(c)(2). These time and number restrictions may be relaxed, however, when the alien establishes that "changed circumstances have arisen in the country of nationality or in the country to which deportation has been ordered."[2] Larngar v. Holder, 562 F.3d 71, 74 (1st Cir. 2009) (citing 8 C.F.R. § 1003.2(c)(3)(ii)).

         The petitioners attempt to avoid the time-and-number bar by invoking this exception. To carry the day, an assertion of changed country circumstances must satisfy two ...

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