FOR REVIEW OF AN ORDER OF THE BOARD OF IMMIGRATION APPEALS
Kay Roses, with whom Michael P. Martel and Law Office of
Michael P. Martel, Esq. were on brief, for petitioner.
B. Leung, Iris Gomez, and Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
on brief for Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, Greater
Boston Legal Services, Political Asylum/Immigration
Representation Project, Catholic Social Services of Fall
River, amici curiae.
F. Stanton, Trial Attorney, Office of Immigration Litigation,
Civil Division, U.S. Department of Justice, with whom Chad A.
Readler, Acting Assistant Attorney General, Civil Division,
and Claire L. Workman, Senior Litigation Counsel, Office of
Immigration Litigation, were on brief, for respondent.
Lynch, Circuit Judge, Souter, [*] Associate Justice, and Selya,
Javier Ruiz-Escobar sought withholding of removal
("WOR") and protection under the Convention Against
Torture ("CAT"), claiming that he had experienced
past persecution and faced a clear probability of future
persecution in Honduras on account of his family membership.
an evidentiary hearing before an Immigration Judge
("IJ"). There, he presented evidence that, he
alleged, established that a narcotrafficking gang called Los
Cachiros had killed a number of his family members in
Honduras. The IJ denied Ruiz-Escobar's request for
relief, finding that he failed to establish that he had
suffered -- or was likely to suffer in the future -- harm
that was both (1) sufficient to constitute persecution and
(2) related to his family membership. The Board of
Immigration Appeals ("BIA") affirmed in a decision
timely petitioned for review in this court. We also describe
below the arguments in the petition. As none of the claims
have merit, we deny his petition for review.
a native and citizen of Honduras, first entered the United
States illegally in May 2013 by crossing the Hidalgo, Texas
border. He was apprehended, detained by the border patrol for
several weeks, and interviewed by immigration officials in
June 2013. In a Record of Sworn Statement from that
interview, which he signed, Ruiz-Escobar indicated that he
had entered the United States to work and live in Boston, and
that he had no fear of harm if he were returned to Honduras.
On the basis of this information, the Department of Homeland
Security ("DHS") removed Ruiz-Escobar to Honduras
on June 18, 2013, pursuant to an expedited removal order.
November 2013, Ruiz-Escobar again entered the United States
illegally. This time, he eluded the border patrol and found
his way to Massachusetts. On or about July 21, 2016,
Ruiz-Escobar was taken into custody by Immigration and
Customs Enforcement officers after he was stopped by
Massachusetts police for driving without a license. The next
day, DHS notified Ruiz-Escobar of its decision to reinstate
the prior removal order. In August 2016, an asylum officer
interviewed Ruiz-Escobar and found that he had expressed a
reasonable fear of harm upon return to Honduras.
counsel, Ruiz-Escobar filed an application for WOR and for
protection under CAT. In support of his application,
Ruiz-Escobar submitted, inter alia, affidavits from himself
and his sister; death certificates of his deceased relatives;
and reports detailing conditions in Honduras.
merits hearing on his application, Ruiz-Escobar testified
that a number of his family members -- including his mother,
his father, four uncles, and a cousin -- had been killed or
"disappeared" in Honduras by a narcotrafficking
group called Los Cachiros. Ruiz-Escobar said he had heard from
relatives that Los Cachiros had shot and killed his father in
1994 (the year before he was born) for refusing to sell them
a piece of land, which they had wanted to use as a landing
strip for their cocaine-transporting planes.
Cachiros also purportedly held a grudge against
Ruiz-Escobar's stepfather, Camilo Ruiz
("Camilo"), stemming from Camilo's refusal to
become a bodyguard for Lucio Rivera, a Los
Cachiros-affiliated narcotrafficker. Ruiz-Escobar claimed
that Los Cachiros had attempted to kill Camilo in 2010 by
cutting the brakes of his car. According to Ruiz-Escobar, the
resulting car accident killed his mother, but Camilo
survived. Camilo relocated to the United States in 2011,
where he currently is located, and testified at
rebut Ruiz-Escobar's testimony that Lucio Rivera had been
targeting his family members, DHS counsel "Googled"
the name "Lucio Rivera" at the hearing and found a
Spanish-language article from a Honduran newspaper stating
that Lucio Rivera had been convicted of three murders and
sentenced to 104 years in prison by a Honduran court.
Ruiz-Escobar's counsel objected to the admission of the
article on the basis that she had not seen it. DHS counsel
responded that she would "go upstairs and print it
out." The IJ allowed the court interpreter to translate
the article into the record.
also described the deaths of four of his uncles: Andres
Felipe Ruiz Mayen ("Andres"), Jose de Jesus Ruiz
Mayen ("Jose"), Santos Ruiz Mayen
("Santos"), and Hector Porfirio Sevilla Cabrera
("Hector"). He claimed that Andres was murdered in
1998 for refusing to sell the Ruiz family's land to Los
Cachiros. According to Ruiz-Escobar, the land was eventually
sold to a cattle rancher, but Los Cachiros ultimately
obtained possession of the land after killing the rancher.
The second uncle, Jose, died in 2005. While Ruiz-Escobar did
not have "personal knowledge" regarding the
circumstances of Jose's death, he noted that "some
people in [his] family" thought that drug traffickers
"were possibly responsible" for Jose's death,
even though an initial report indicated that Jose had been
killed by a falling tree. The third uncle, Santos, has been
missing since 2011. Ruiz-Escobar speculated that Los Cachiros
had kidnapped Santos to obtain information about Camilo's
location and "disappeared" Santos to