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CA Rejects Immigrant’s Petition for Removal Review Despite Being Once Married to US Citizen and Obtaining Conditional PR Status

flowers-260898_640The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit recently denied the appeal for review of removal by Arsenio Valdez, a native citizen of the Dominican Republic, who had obtained conditional permanent resident status in 1996 after marrying Evelyn Mercedes Veracruz, a US citizen, in 1995. Their marriage would eventually deteriorate to the point of divorce in 2008.

Valdez was served with a Notice to Appear in front of an immigration judge (IJ) in 2011, after which he conceded removability, but also requested relief from removal by claiming an adjustment of status from conditional permanent resident to permanent resident. As he was already divorced from his then-wife, Valdez also petitioned for a waiver of the standard requirement to request a status-change together with his spouse, indicating that he had no choice but to make the request alone. Valdez pointed out that even if he was a divorcee, he had “entered into the marriage in good faith but the marriage was terminated through divorce or annulment.”

Problems with Waiver Request

Unfortunately for Valdez, the immigration judge ruled that he had failed to prove his marriage was entered in good faith, ordering him deported to the Dominican Republic. Valdez would then appeal to the Bureau of Immigration Appeals (BIA), which affirmed the IJ’s decision and released a written statement discussing why it saw a lack of evidence proving Valdez had married in good faith. In its decision, the BIA wrote that Valdez “failed his burden of proof to establish that the marriage was bona fide.”

With no other legal recourse left, Valdez filed a petition for the First Circuit Court of Appeals to review his case.

Court of Appeals’ Ruling

The First Circuit, however, denied Valdez’s petition for review, ruling that the IJ and BIA had sufficient evidence to prove the petitioner failed to provide burden of proof that he had married Veracruz in good faith. The court respects the fact-finding abilities of the IJ and the BIA, the latter of which not only relied on the previous IJ ruling, but also conducted its own investigation on Valdez’s claims.

Lay of the Land

The First Circuit also explained the law regarding conditional permanent residency. An individual with conditional PR status can only remove that condition by filing a joint petition from the Department of Homeland Security, which should be done within a 90-day window, before the noncitizen spouse’s reaches a 2-year anniversary after acquiring conditional PR status. Failure to meet these requirements will result in termination of the spouse’s conditional permanent resident status.

While this overview of the Valdez case glosses over several critical facts surrounding his petition, it’s still a reminder of the importance of having reliable counsel in court. To learn more about your rights as an immigrant, get in touch with Lyttle Law Firm today. Visit our website or call us at 512-215-5225.

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