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You Can't Manufacture a Legal Dispute Over a Factual Disagreement

By Robyn Hagan Cain | Last updated on

Today's Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals case serves as a reminder that factual interpretation is a subjective art, and an appeal might not provide relief from an immigration fraud ruling.

Saladin Abdel Jawad, a Jordanian citizen, has been in the U.S. for 25 years since his non-immigrant visitor visa expired. He and his ex-wife had five children in the U.S. before divorcing in 1998. Despite being approved for an immediate-family visa, Jawad has been deemed removable.

Six months after Jawad and his wife, Majidah, divorced in the late 80s, Karen Blankenship, a United States citizen, filed an I-130 visa petition on Jawad's behalf. The petition indicated that she and Jawad had married the same year.

Chicago immigration officials conducted an interview with Jawad and Blankenship to determine whether they had entered into the marriage in good faith, and, suspecting immigration fraud, recommended their case for further investigation. Blankenship later admitted to immigration officials that the marriage was indeed fraudulent, and Jawad had paid her to marry him. The government eventually denied Jawad's visa petition.

After ending his relationship with Blankenship, Jawad reunited with his ex-wife and their kids. He didn't file for divorce from Blankenship because he was worried that such a move would affect his immigration case. Divorce was actually the least of his immigration worries.

Jawad was served with a Notice to Appear, which charged that he was removable for two reasons: he had remained in the country on an expired visitor visa, and he had fraudulently entered into a marriage to secure an immigration benefit. Jawad admitted at the removal hearing that he was removable, but requested cancellation of removal.

Four years later, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) approved a new immediate-family visa petition for Jawad, which had been filed on his behalf by his daughter Elham Abdeljawad, a U.S. citizen. In light of Elham's application, Jawad filed a request for cancellation of removal and an application for adjustment of status.

The government responded with evidence that the Blankenship marriage had been fraudulent, designed primarily to secure immigration benefits.

After reviewing the evidence, the immigration judge (IJ) decided that Jawad failed to show he merited a favorable exercise of discretion for either request because he committed immigration fraud and gave the court false testimony.

Jawad appealed, claiming that the IJ ignored his daughter's testimony in the case. The Board Immigration Appeals dismissed his appeal.

Tuesday, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals also dismissed Jawad's challenge, noting that it lacked jurisdiction to rule on the matter because the record clearly reflected that the IJ did consider his daughter's testimony. Jawad was simply displeased with the result.

In dismissing the appeal, the court noted, "A petitioner can't manufacture a legal dispute over a disagreement on the facts."

Your client may not like an immigration ruling, but there's no guarantee that throwing more money at the problem in appeal will yield a different outcome.

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