437 F.3d 229 (2nd Cir. 2006), 03-4840, Sall v. Gonzales

Docket Nº:03-4840.
Citation:437 F.3d 229
Party Name:Amadou SALL, Petitioner, v. Alberto GONZALES, Attorney General of the United States, [*] Respondent.
Case Date:February 03, 2006
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
 
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437 F.3d 229 (2nd Cir. 2006)

Amadou SALL, Petitioner,

v.

Alberto GONZALES, Attorney General of the United States, [*] Respondent.

No. 03-4840.

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit.

Feb. 3, 2006

Argued: Jan. 30, 2006.

Page 230

Ronald S. Salomon, New York, NY, for Petitioner.

Damian W. Wilmot, Assistant United States Attorney (Michael J. Sullivan, United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, on the brief), United States Attorney's Office for the District of Massachusetts, Boston, MA, for Respondent.

Before: WINTER, CABRANES, and B.D. PARKER, Circuit Judges.

PER CURIAM.

We consider here the proper standards for reviewing a finding that an asylum applicant has "firmly resettled" in a third country before applying for asylum in the United States. See 8 C.F.R. § 208.15 (defining aliens who have "firmly resettled"); 8 U.S.C. § 1152(b)(2)(a)(vii) (barring such aliens from receiving asylum).

Petitioner Amadou Sall, who claims to be a native and citizen of Mauritania, petitions for review of an April 8, 2003 order of the Board of Immigration Appeals ("BIA") affirming without opinion an October 16, 1997 decision of an immigration judge ("IJ") denying him asylum and withholding of deportation1 under the Immigration

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and Nationality Act of 1952, as amended, 8 U.S.C. § 1101 et seq. ("INA"). The IJ concluded that Sall had "firmly resettled" in a third country before applying for asylum in the United States and therefore was ineligible for asylum. He concluded as well that even if Sall were not barred from receiving asylum by the "firmly resettled" rule, he nonetheless did not meet the requirements for a grant of asylum because (1) he failed to demonstrate either past persecution or a well-founded fear of future persecution and (2) changed conditions in Mauritania permit Sall's safe return. Sall contests each of these findings.

The following facts are drawn from Sall's application for asylum and his testimony before the IJ. Sall was born in Mauritania and lived with his family near the river demarcating the border with Senegal. He supported himself by farming and herding. At the time relevant to this case, petitioner described Mauritania as being run by "white Moors" who were hostile to black persons such as Sall and his family. After various incidents of abuse, "white Moor" military men came to Sall's home in 1989, confiscated the family's identification documents, and informed Sall and his family that because they were black, they "were not Mauritanians" and must leave the country. The soldiers then took away Sall's brothers, who had argued with them. Sall later learned that his brothers had likely been killed. Meanwhile, soldiers separated Sall from his parents, briefly imprisoned him, and then forced him and about thirty others at gunpoint to cross into Senegal.

In Senegal he was met by Red Cross workers, who took him to a refugee camp where he was reunited with his parents.2 Although the Red Cross provided some food, Sall and other young men performed odd jobs to help make ends meet. Residents slept in tents. He stayed at the refugee camp for about four-and-one-half years, during which time he was listed on his father's "card."3 Dissatisfied with conditions at the camp, Sall eventually secured a ride to Dakar, the capital of Senegal, where he helped unload and carry goods for tips. After nine months in Dakar, Sall paid someone to transport him to the United States, where he arrived in March 1995 and entered without inspection.

After being served a notice to appear by the Immigration and Naturalization Service ("INS"), 4 Sall conceded deportability and applied for asylum, withholding of removal, and, in the alternative, voluntary departure. To support his claims, Sall testified and provided documents such as country reports and newspaper accounts of the situation of blacks in Mauritania, a letter Sall alleged to be from the Saint-Louis regional president of the Senegal Red Cross confirming Sall's presence at the Thilogne refugee camp, and a letter Sall alleged to be from his mother describing the refugee camp's difficult conditions.

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In addition, Sall submitted a letter from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees ("UNHCR") stating that UNHCR Senegal had no record of Sall or his parents.

After reviewing this evidence, the IJ first found that Sall was ineligible for asylum because he had been "firmly resettled" in Senegal before applying for asylum in the United States. She based this conclusion on findings that Sall had lived in Senegal for about five years "and was clearly under no impediments to work or to travel within the country."

Second, although a finding of "firm resettlement" precludes a grant of asylum, see 8 C.F.R. § 208.15, the IJ found in the alternative that Sall had not demonstrated a well-founded fear of persecution and therefore did not meet the definition of a "refugee." Her conclusion was based on findings that the UNHCR "is the authority involved in the refugee camps" for Mauritanian refugees in Senegal and that the Red Cross letter had "limited probative value." She also found that she could not verify the legitimacy of the letter Sall said was from his mother. Based on these findings, the IJ found that Sall did not meet his burden of showing a well-founded fear of persecution.

Accordingly, the IJ denied Sall's application for asylum and withholding of deportation. The BIA affirmed without opinion, and this petition for review followed.

&nbsp I. Standard for "Firm Resettlement" Findings

In general, we review an IJ's findings of fact for "substantial evidence," see, e.g., Yun-Zui Guan v. Gonzales, 432 F.3d 391, 394 (2d Cir. 2005), and the "administrative findings of fact are conclusive unless any reasonable adjudicator would be compelled to conclude to the contrary." 8 U.S.C. § 1252(b)(4)(B). We agree with the conclusion of our sister circuits that the "substantial evidence" standard applies...

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