Zambrano v. Sessions, 120517 FED4, 16-2131

Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
Attorney:Benjamin Winograd, IMMIGRANT & REFUGEE APPELLATE CENTER, LLC, Alexandria, Virginia, for Petitioner. Rebecca Hoffberg Phillips, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Respondent. Laura Jacobsen, L&L IMMIGRATION LAW, PLLC, Alexandria, Virginia, for Petitioner. Chad A. Readler, A...
Judge Panel:Before KEENAN and WYNN, Circuit Judges, and John A. GIBNEY, Jr., United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Virginia, sitting by designation.
Opinion Judge:GIBNEY, DISTRICT JUDGE.
Party Name:EDWIN ALEXANDER ROMERO ZAMBRANO, Petitioner, v. JEFFERSON B. SESSIONS III, Attorney General, Respondent.
Case Date:December 05, 2017
Docket Nº:16-2131
 
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EDWIN ALEXANDER ROMERO ZAMBRANO, Petitioner,

v.

JEFFERSON B. SESSIONS III, Attorney General, Respondent.

No. 16-2131

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

December 5, 2017

          Argued: September 12, 2017

         On Petition for Review of an Order of the Board of Immigration Appeals.

         ARGUED:

          Benjamin Winograd, IMMIGRANT & REFUGEE APPELLATE CENTER, LLC, Alexandria, Virginia, for Petitioner.

          Rebecca Hoffberg Phillips, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Respondent.

         ON BRIEF:

          Laura Jacobsen, L&L IMMIGRATION LAW, PLLC, Alexandria, Virginia, for Petitioner.

          Chad A. Readler, Acting Assistant Attorney General, John S. Hogan, Assistant Director, Office of Immigration Litigation, Civil Division, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Respondent.

          Before KEENAN and WYNN, Circuit Judges, and John A. GIBNEY, Jr., United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Virginia, sitting by designation.

          GIBNEY, DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Edwin Romero Zambrano appeals the decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals (the "BIA") to affirm an Immigration Judge's ("IJ") decision to deny his application for asylum. Romero Zambrano claims that the BIA applied the wrong legal standard in assessing his asylum eligibility and the wrong standard of review when evaluating the IJ's decision. As explained below, we agree that the BIA applied the wrong legal standard for assessing asylum eligibility and therefore grant the petition for review and remand to the BIA for further proceedings.

         I.

         Romero Zambrano, a native citizen of Honduras, joined the Honduran military after high school and helped local police arrest gang members. After Romero Zambrano left the army, members of the "Barrio Pobres" from the 18th Street gang tried to track him down to get their revenge. Romero Zambrano moved frequently to avoid detection and tried unsuccessfully to enter the United States five times. He finally managed to enter the United States in August 2011.

         The gang's search for him continued. In 2012, armed men broke into the apartments of Romero Zambrano's sister and former girlfriend in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, asking about his location. Gang members continued to threaten his friends and family for more than a year after that.

         In early 2014, U.S. immigration authorities arrested the petitioner. The gang heard about Romero Zambrano's potential deportation and increased their efforts to find him. In March 2014, gang members approached his family and friends in three different Honduran cities. First, several gang members assaulted one of the petitioner's brothers in Elixir, Honduras. The members tied up the brother and his family while demanding to know Romero Zambrano's whereabouts. Next, masked gang members broke into the home of the petitioner's other brother in Choloma, Honduras, asking where Romero Zambrano lived. Gang members also confronted the petitioner's former girlfriend while she visited San Pedro Sula and demanded to know where they could find the petitioner.

         After his 2014 arrest by the immigration authorities, Romero Zambrano sought asylum based on the new assaults on his family. Ordinarily, an alien must apply for asylum within one year after entering the United States. Since the petitioner entered the country in 2012, the deadline would fall sometime in 2013. But the deadline is flexible if the alien can show "the existence of changed circumstances which materially ...

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