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Perez-Rabanales v. Sessions

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

January 26, 2018



          Kevin P. MacMurray, Daniel W. Chin, and MacMurray & Associates on brief for petitioner.

          Chad A. Readler, Acting Assistant Attorney General, Civil Division, U.S. Department of Justice, Shelley R. Goad, Assistant Director, Office of Immigration Litigation, and Carmel A. Morgan, Trial Attorney, Office of Immigration Litigation, on brief for respondent.

          Before Thompson, Selya, and Kayatta, Circuit Judges.

          SELYA, Circuit Judge.

         The petitioner, Ana Marina Perez-Rabanales, a Guatemalan national, seeks judicial review of a final order of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) denying her application for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT). We conclude that the petitioner has failed to show that the claimed persecution took place on account of her membership in a cognizable social group. Based largely on that conclusion, we hold that the BIA's final order is in accordance with law and is supported by substantial evidence in the record. Consequently, we deny the petition.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The petitioner resided in Guatemala until April of 2014, when she attempted to enter the United States. She claims that in 2003, a man named Rodrigo De Leon grabbed her as she was walking home from church and raped her. She did not contact the police because she believed that women have no rights in Guatemala and that the police would be unwilling to protect her. To avoid future encounters with De Leon, she altered her route to church. Notwithstanding her precautions, De Leon tracked her down and raped her a second time.

         The petitioner became pregnant as a result of this second rape. She told her mother about both the pregnancy and De Leon's assaults. Soon thereafter, De Leon left Guatemala. But as word spread that the petitioner was carrying De Leon's child, she began to experience abuse from De Leon's family. Three of his relatives beat her with sticks and threatened her life. De Leon was married at the time of the rapes, and she believed that his relatives, upon learning of her pregnancy, blamed her for "wreck[ing] his home."

         The petitioner gave birth to her son, Juanfer Perez, in March of 2004. At an unspecified later date in 2007, she was attacked by De Leon's sister-in-law, who pulled her hair, threw her to the ground, and struck her with a rock. An x-ray taken at a local hospital revealed that blood had pooled in the petitioner's brain as a result of the attack. Although she seldom went outdoors following this incident for fear of another confrontation, De Leon's relatives continued to scream at her from outside her home.

         The petitioner subsequently met Raoul Mauricio, with whom she lived and had a child (Astrid Mauricio). De Leon's family continued harassing her, and the harassment persisted after Raoul Mauricio emigrated to the United States in 2010. The petitioner recalls that members of De Leon's family told her that "now that you are alone, we can deal with you, bitch."

         On or about April 26, 2014, the petitioner, accompanied by her minor daughter Astrid Mauricio, crossed the border into Texas and entered the United States without inspection. She was detained upon entry and placed in removal proceedings. Conceding removability, she cross-applied for asylum, withholding of removal, and CAT protection. In support, she claimed both past persecution and a well-founded fear of future persecution on account of her membership in a particular social group.

         At the conclusion of her removal hearing, the immigration judge (IJ) found the petitioner credible, but denied relief. The IJ concluded that the petitioner was ineligible for either asylum or withholding of removal because she was unable to show that the harm she suffered in Guatemala was on account of a statutorily protected ground. The IJ also concluded that the petitioner did not qualify for CAT protection because she had not established a likelihood that, if repatriated, she would be subjected to torture with the consent, acquiescence, or willful blindness of a public official. Following the petitioner's unsuccessful appeal to the BIA, she prosecuted this petition for judicial review.

         II. ...

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