“Next, Hernandez‐Alvarez argues that the judge violated his due process rights by “improperly assum[ing] the role of counsel for the Government.” He asserts that the judge had a “negative attitude” toward his case, “frequently interrupted” his lawyer, and “took over entire lines of questioning.” The judge, he adds, prejudged the case.1
This due process challenge raises a constitutional claim that confers jurisdiction over this part of the petition. See 8 U.S.C. § 1252(a)(2)(D), Kuschchak v. Ashcroft, 366 F.3d 597, 602 (7th Cir. 2004). On the merits, however, the Board did not err by deciding that the judge gave Hernandez‐Alvarez a fair hearing.
An immigration judge has the authority to “interrogate, examine, and cross‐ examine” a petitioner and any other witnesses. 8 U.S.C. § 1229a(b)(1). Immigration judges carry heavy caseloads and do not have time to waste. Like an appellate court, a trial judge in a bench trial can raise questions and try to focus the presentations to the court based on the judge’s understanding of the facts and law. Such efforts do not show that the judge has abandoned an impartial and neutral stance or has prejudged the case. See Barragan‐ Ojeda v. Sessions, 853 F.3d 374, 381–82 (7th Cir. 2017) (“When the IJ does not demonstrate ‘impatience, hostility, or a predisposition against’ an alien’s claim, and where the questions assisted in the development of the record on relevant points, the mere fact that the IJ elicited testimony is not inappropriate and certainly does not raise due process concerns.”); Kharkhan v. Ashcroft, 336 F.3d 601, 606 (7th Cir. 2003). On the other hand, as
1 Hernandez‐Alvarez relies on the following statement by the judge: “Well, Mr. Metcalf [Hernandez‐Alvarez’s attorney], I don’t see any point in continuing on with the respondent’s case. I just don’t see him eligible for cancellation of removal. I mean, you can continue the questioning, but one, you know, the records show that he has the ’99 conviction for domestic battery causing bodily injury; the Seventh Circuit has found that to be a crime of violence, and so he would be precluded from cancellation of removal eligibility statutorily. Secondly, he has a 2013 for domestic battery or aggravated battery, and he served approximately 150 days in jail. In addition, it’s only recently that the respondent by court order has been reestablishing a relationship with his children. So this case doesn’t even come close to being eligible for cancellation of removal. So do you want to ask some other questions concerning those topics, good moral character?”
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we explained in Barragan‐Ojeda, that authority can be misused. We will order new hearings where judges have been hostile or abusive or have prevented rather than facilitated presentation of an alien’s case. 853 F.3d at 381, citing Rodriguez Galicia v. Gonzales, 422 F.3d 529, 539 (7th Cir. 2005); Podio v. I.N.S., 153 F.3d 506, 510 (7th Cir. 1998).
In this case, the judge posed appropriate questions that probed Hernandez‐ Alvarez’s statutory eligibility for relief. At the key hearing, both lawyers were new to the case. The judge was already familiar with the relevant circumstances, which did not need to be repeated. The judge’s questions about the extent of the hardship the children would suffer if Hernandez‐Alvarez were removed, the nature of his past criminal convictions, and his physical presence in the United States were right on target. They framed the challenge for Hernandez‐Alvarez and his lawyer, and the judge invited them to present additional evidence.
The process was similar to an appellate argument when a judge explains his or her understanding of the difficulties the lawyer’s client faces and invites response. Hernandez‐Alvarez has not identified any evidence that the judge prevented him from introducing, and his brief overlooks several opportunities the judge gave him to testify as he pleased. See Perez‐Fuentes, 842 F.3d at 511 (explaining that a petitioner does “not have a meaningful opportunity to be heard” when relevant evidence has been wrongly excluded). We also reject the argument that the judge prejudged the case. In the passage quoted in the footnote above, the judge reacted to the facts and evidence, identified the obvious and serious problems with Hernandez‐Alvarez’s application for cancellation of removal, and invited him to address them. That’s what a judge is supposed to do. Accordingly, the portion of the petition for judicial review that is not barred by 8 U.S.C. § 1252(a)(2)(B)(i) is DENIED.”
PANEL: Circuit Judges Posner, Kanne, Hamilton