Tiger Cela v. Merrick Garland

USCA4 Appeal: 22-1322 Doc: 57 Filed: 07/28/2023 Pg: 1 of 22 PUBLISHED UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT No. 22-1322 TIGER CELA, Petitioner, v. MERRICK B. GARLAND, Attorney General, Respondent. On Petition for Review of an Order of the Board of Immigration Appeals. Argued: March 7, 2023 Decided: July 28, 2023 Before AGEE, HARRIS, and QUATTLEBAUM, Circuit Judges. Petition for review denied by published opinion. Judge Quattlebaum wrote the opinion in which Judge Agee joined. Judge Harris wrote an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part. ARGUED: Benjamin Ross Winograd, IMMIGRANT & REFUGEE APPELLATE CENTER, LLC, Alexandria, Virginia, for Petitioner. Michelle R. Slack, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Respondent. ON BRIEF: Raymond Reza Bolourtchi, COFMAN & BOLOURTCHI LLC, St. Louis, Missouri, for Petitioner. Brian Boynton, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Justin Markel, Senior Litigation Counsel, Office of Immigration Litigation, Civil Division, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Respondent. USCA4 Appeal: 22-1322 Doc: 57 Filed: 07/28/2023 Pg: 2 of 22 QUATTLEBAUM, Circuit Judge: Subject to other requirements, the Attorney General “may adjust to the status of an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence the status of any alien granted asylum[].” 8 U.S.C. § 1159(b). The question presented here is whether the prior termination of an alien’s asylum status renders the alien ineligible for this adjustment. Based on the text of § 1159(b), the answer is yes. So, we affirm the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) and deny the petition before us. I. Tiger Cela, a native and citizen of Albania, entered the United States in 2001. He remained in the country until 2008, when he was ordered removed. Between 2008 and 2012, he lived in Albania. Then, he returned to the United States and was granted asylum— derivative of his father’s asylum application. See 8 U.S.C. § 1158(b)(3). In 2015, Cela was charged with federal bank fraud and aggravated identity theft. In 2016, he was convicted of those charges after pleading guilty and sentenced to 44 months in prison. Based on Cela’s convictions, in August 2019, the Department of Homeland 2 USCA4 Appeal: 22-1322 Doc: 57 Filed: 07/28/2023 Pg: 3 of 22 Security (“DHS”) began removal proceedings against Cela. 1 And also because of those convictions, in September 2019, DHS moved to terminate his asylum status. 2 The immigration judge (“IJ”) granted DHS’s motion to terminate Cela’s asylum status in September 2019. The IJ held a hearing on DHS’s removal proceedings against Cela in October 2019. In connection with that hearing, Cela conceded he was removable based on the bank fraud and identity theft proceedings but requested the IJ waive those grounds for his removal. Cela also applied to adjust his status to lawful permanent resident. 3 And he separately sought withholding of removal and protection under the Convention Against Torture (“CAT”). The IJ denied Cela’s request for a waiver. The judge also concluded that Cela was ineligible for adjustment of status because his asylee status had already been terminated. The IJ …

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