Jimenez-Aguilar v. Barr, No. 19-1917 (7th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
Jimenez-Aguilar, a 14-year-old citizen of Honduras, entered the U.S. without inspection. In 2014, he was arrested for domestic assault. Jimenez-Aguilar sought cancellation of removal, arguing that his removal would cause “exceptional and extremely unusual hardship” to his spouse and children, all U.S. citizens, 8 U.S.C. 1229b(b)(1)(D). He obtained modifications of criminal convictions that made such relief unavailable. An IJ nonetheless denied his request, finding that Jimenez-Aguilar had not shown “exceptional and extremely unusual hardship.” The BIA rejected Jimenez-Aguilar’s contentions that his counsel rendered ineffective assistance by discouraging him from seeking asylum and that the IJ should have notified him that asylum or withholding were possible. A regulation requires an IJ to provide such notice when “an alien expresses fear of persecution or harm." Jimenez-Aguilar alerted the IJ that he fears vicious criminal gangs and stated two of his cousins and an uncle had been killed by gangs; his mother had obtained asylum because of gang violence. The BIA found that Jimenez-Aguilar “had a reasonable opportunity to apply for asylum” without the need for a warning.
The Seventh Circuit remanded. The regulation does not ask whether an alien had a “reasonable opportunity” to seek asylum without advice from the IJ. Jimenez-Aguilar needed only to express fear of persecution or harm of the type that could render him eligible for asylum or withholding of removal; he did not need to express his fear in a way that would make his eligibility for such relief “apparent.”