7th Circuit affirms findings that immigrant’s marriage was a ‘sham’

A woman who emigrated to Indiana from Nigeria after marrying her now ex-husband was denied a petition to stay in the United States after the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the adverse credibility findings of two immigration judges that her marriage was a sham.

In 2007, Bukola Lomi Omowole moved to the United States from her home country of Nigeria with Ayebamileru Festus Omowole, whom she had married earlier in the year. But by the time they separately landed on American soil, the couple was estranged after Festus revealed he had a child with another woman before marrying Omowole.

Omowole, who lived Indiana, claimed she visited Festus for one month when he resided in California and talked to him on the phone before they divorced in 2011. After Festus married the mother of his child and tried to obtain citizenship for himself, his wife and their child, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service began to investigate whether his marriage to Omowole had been a sham entered into for the purpose of facilitating her entry into the United States.

Ultimately, the government concluded Omowole had procured her entry visa by fraud. Although both Festus and Omowole were both placed in removal proceedings, only Omowole’s proceedings continue.

On appeal to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, Omowole challenged an order of the Board of Immigration Appeals that sustained a determination from two judges that she was removable from the United States for having procured her entry visa by fraud, and the decision denying her asylum or withholding of removal.

But the 7th Circuit affirmed in Bukola Lomi Omowole v. Merrick B. Garland, Attorney General of the United States, 20-2285, finding no basis to disturb either judge’s credibility assessments.

The appellate court noted the first judge found that the inconsistencies between Festus and Omowole’s testimonies included whether they had consummated their marriage, whether Omowole’s family had paid Festus any money and whether Omowole and Festus had visited one another after they arrived in the U.S.

“These were reasonable grounds on which to deem Omowole and her ex-husband incredible. One would expect the couple to be able to recall and make consistent statements as to such matters, which had a substantial bearing on whether their marriage was or was not a sham. The (immigration judge) was not simply nitpicking about minor discrepancies as to dates, as Omowole suggests,” Judge Ilana Rovner wrote for the 7th Circuit.

“There was also a lack of any documentary evidence (such as financial records) confirming that they had actually lived together in Nigeria before emigrating. Despite the passage of time, it was not unreasonable for the immigration judge and the Board to think that some evidence of this kind might be available to Omowole. See § 1229a(c)(4)(B),” it concluded.

As to the second judge, the 7th Circuit concluded there was a reasonable determination that Omowole was not sufficiently credible and had no corroboration to establish the factual underpinning of her claims for asylum and other relief.

“It is unnecessary for us to reach Judge (Elizabeth) Lang’s alternative reasons for denying Omowole’s requests for asylum or withholding of removal, as the adverse credibility determination and the lack of corroboration doom her claims. Neither Judge Lang nor the Board committed any discernable error,” Rovner concluded.

As such, the court found the sustained adverse credibility findings of the immigration judges were supported by substantial evidence and therefore denied Omowole’s petition for review.

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