Cardona v. Sessions, 021717 FED1, 15-2095
|Court:||United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the First Circuit|
|Attorney:||Hans J. Bremer and Bremer Law & Associates, LLC on brief for petitioner. Benjamin C. Mizer, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Division; Anthony Nicastro, Acting Assistant Director, Office of Immigration Litigation; and Joanna L. Watson, Trial Attorney,...|
|Judge Panel:||Before Thompson, Selya, and Lipez, Circuit Judges.|
|Opinion Judge:||LIPEZ, CIRCUIT JUDGE.|
|Party Name:||VERONICA CARMELA CORTEZ CARDONA, a/k/a VERONICA DEL CARMEN CORTEZ, Petitioner, v. JEFFERSON B. SESSIONS, III, [*] UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL, Respondent.|
|Case Date:||February 17, 2017|
PETITION FOR REVIEW OF AN ORDER OF THE BOARD OF IMMIGRATION APPEALS
Hans J. Bremer and Bremer Law & Associates, LLC on brief for petitioner.
Benjamin C. Mizer, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Division; Anthony Nicastro, Acting Assistant Director, Office of Immigration Litigation; and Joanna L. Watson, Trial Attorney, Office of Immigration Litigation, Civil Division, on brief for respondent.
Before Thompson, Selya, and Lipez, Circuit Judges.
LIPEZ, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
The petitioner, Veronica Carmela Cortez Cardona ("Cortez"), a native and citizen of Guatemala, seeks review of a decision from the Board of Immigration Appeals ("BIA" or "Board") denying her motion to reopen an appeal challenging an immigration judge's ("IJ") decision to reject her request for asylum and withholding of removal pursuant to the Immigration and Nationality Act ("INA"), 8 U.S.C. §§ 1158, 1231(b)(3). Under the deferential standard of review accorded to the BIA's decision to reject a motion to reopen and reconsider its own proceedings, we deny her petition.
Cortez arrived in the United States without proper entry documentation on April 17, 2013. During the following month, the Department of Homeland Security served her with a Notice to Appear ("NTA") before an IJ, alleging that she failed to possess a valid travel document at her time of entry into the United States in violation of the INA, 8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(7)(A)(i)(I).
In a July 2013 written pleading, Cortez admitted the factual allegations and the removal charge alleged in her NTA and filed an application for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture ("CAT"). Cortez's asylum application recounted an emotionally, physically, and sexually abusive relationship with a man whom she had dated in Guatemala named Juan Carlos. She testified before the IJ that her relationship with Juan Carlos went well for a few months after they first began dating, but eventually Juan Carlos introduced Cortez to his many friends who were gang members and attempted to recruit her into his gang. After rebuffing these efforts, her relationship with Juan Carlos quickly crumbled, and he became abusive. In order to escape Juan Carlos's physical and sexual violence, she made arrangements to travel to the United States. Cortez asserted before the IJ -- and continues to maintain here -- that she is eligible for asylum based upon a fear of persecution due to her "membership in a particular social group." 8 U.S.C. § 1158(b)(1)(B)(i). She proposed two potential social groups in her hearing before the IJ -- "Guatemalan women who have been involved intimately with Guatemalan male companions who believe that women are to live under male domination" and "women in domestic relationships who are unable to leave."1
Providing three reasons for his decision rejecting her application for relief, the IJ first cited inconsistencies between Cortez's testimony and statements she had made to border agents, and concluded that her testimony about her abusive relationship with Juan Carlos was not credible. Second, the IJ stated that even if Cortez's testimony was credible, her proposed social groups were not cognizable under the INA because the statute requires such a group "be sufficiently particular to permit an accurate separation of members from non-members" and an "objective observer would not reliably [be able to] gauge who is or who is not a member of the group[s]" proposed by Cortez. Finally, the IJ noted that internal relocation in Guatemala remained a "significant possibility" for Cortez.
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