Jimenez-Aguilar v. Barr
977 F.3d 603 (7th Cir. 2020)
Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals
*Precedential Case

On July 31, 2020, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ordered that a new hearing be held for a Honduran citizen, represented by Carla I. Espinoza of Chicago Immigration Advocates Law Offices, whose motion to for a new hearing was denied by the Board of Immigration Appeals.

Chicago Immigration Advocates Law Offices, through Attorney Carla I. Espinoza, represented Mr. Jimenez after the Board of Immigration Appeals denied his motion for a new hearing. Ms. Espinoza filed a Petition for Review with the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, asserting that his prior counsel rendered “ineffective assistance of counsel” when he discouraged Mr. Jimenez to seek asylum, despite the fact that his mother previously had been granted asylum. Ms. Espinoza argued that not only was Mr. Jimenez’ prior attorney ineffective, but also that the Immigration Court failed to notify Mr. Jimenez that asylum or withholding were potential benefits under the regulations when he expressed that he would be harmed if returned to Honduras. He asserted that he feared gang violence because his mother received death threats from gangs as a result of her position on a community council.

Ms. Espinoza persuaded the Seventh Circuit that where someone like Mr. Jimenez articulates a recognizable basis for asylum, (1) Immigration Judges have a mandatory duty to advise non-citizens of the availability of asylum and withholding of removal; and (2) where the Immigration Judge fails to do so, the non-citizen is entitled to a new hearing.

The Court said as follows:

"If Jimenez-Aguilar had expressed only a fear of generalized violence in Honduras, as the Board believed, the IJ would not have needed to notify him about the possibility of asylum. But Jimenez-Aguilar told the IJ that he feared persecution at the hands of gangs in Honduras because of his relationship to his mother, who had received asylum based on these threats. The IJ accordingly should have given the regulatory advice, which could have led to further evidence on topics such as whether the government is complicit in private violence."

Ms. Espinoza’s work creates an important legal precedent which has impacted how immigration courts as well as circuit courts throughout the country will adjudicate cases of non-citizens seeking asylum and withholding protection by clarifying the correct legal standards to be applied.

* The case is, first, a published decision (many decisions of the court are not important enough to be published), and, second, its statement of the law is so important that future parties rely upon it in their arguments in their cases before the courts.