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Mboowa v. Lynch

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

July 21, 2015

HENRY MBOOWA, Petitioner,
LORETTA E. LYNCH, Attorney General of the United States, [*] Respondent


William P. Joyce and Joyce & Associates P.C. on brief for petitioner.

Stuart F. Delery, Assistant Attorney General, and Erica B. Miles and James A. Hunolt, Senior Litigation Counsel, Office of Immigration Litigation, Civil Division, Department of Justice, on brief for respondent.

Before Howard, Chief Judge, Lynch and Thompson, Circuit Judges.


HOWARD, Chief Judge.

Petitioner Henry Mboowa, a native and citizen of Uganda, asks us to review a Board of Immigration Appeals (" BIA" ) order denying his claims for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the United Nations Convention Against Torture (" CAT" ). The BIA upheld an Immigration Judge's (" IJ" ) finding that Mboowa's testimony was not credible and, thus, that he was unable to establish eligibility for relief. After careful review, however, we conclude that the record does not support two of the purported discrepancies that the agency considered critical in discrediting Mboowa's account. In light of that finding, we grant Mboowa's petition, vacate the BIA's order, and remand for additional proceedings.[1]


Mboowa was born in Kampala, Uganda in 1976. He entered the United States through Newark, New Jersey on June 5, 2002, to work as a summer camp counselor as part of an exchange program. Although his J-1 visa authorized only a temporary stay until September 15, 2002, he has remained in the United States without authorization ever since.

On February 27, 2003, Mboowa applied pro se for asylum but an asylum officer denied his application. No further action was taken until February 13, 2008, when the Department of Homeland Security served Mboowa with a Notice to Appear in immigration removal proceedings. Mboowa appeared with legal counsel at an initial hearing on July 3, 2008, and conceded that the Notice to Appear's factual allegations were accurate. Nevertheless, Mboowa indicated that he would seek asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under CAT, and he proffered his original, 2003 asylum application as support for his claims.

Beyond his 2003 asylum application, Mboowa has recounted the events underlying his claims on several occasions. At the initial hearing on July 3, 2008, in addition to submitting his original application, he provided several documents purporting to corroborate his recollection of events and describing the political conditions in Uganda. Mboowa also filed additional corroborating documents and an affidavit on June 30, 2009. Mboowa then testified before the IJ on December 14, 2010, and once again filed additional supporting documentation.

The political situation in Uganda, where incumbent President Yoweri Museveni has remained in office since 1986, supplies the backdrop for Mboowa's claims. Mboowa alleges that he joined a " youth pressure group" called the Youth Unity Peace Initiative (" YUPI" ) in 2000. Although initially focused on certain policy issues, the group become directly involved in electoral politics as the 2001 Ugandan presidential election approached. YUPI ultimately supported the opposition candidate, Colonel Besigye, whom Museveni would defeat in March 2001. Mboowa alleges that his membership in YUPI -- and the group's support of Besigye -- left Mboowa and his family vulnerable to persecution by those loyal to President Museveni, including the Ugandan military and intelligence services.

Mboowa's claims rest primarily on four incidents that took place between 2001 and 2002: a 2001 beating, a 2001 home invasion, the 2002 death of Mboowa's father, and the 2002 beheading of Mboowa's cousin. We briefly describe the facts central to those events according to Mboowa's testimony although, as discussed later, the agency identified certain purported inconsistencies in Mboowa's accounts.

On January 26, 2001, Mboowa and a YUPI colleague, Moses Sekibuule, were accosted and beaten in Kampala. Mboowa alleges that, while the two men were hanging campaign posters supporting Colonel Besigye, more than a dozen soldiers dressed in camouflage suddenly approached in a pick-up truck. They demanded that Mboowa and Sekibuule cease hanging the posters and ordered the two men to lie on the ground. The soldiers proceeded to whip, kick, and beat the two men for twelve to fifteen minutes. As a result of the beating Mboowa maintains that his injuries -- a broken pelvis, deep wounds on his shins, cuts to his knees, and several cuts and a deep gash along the side of his head -- required a three-week hospital stay. Sekibuule allegedly lost several teeth and sustained either a broken hand or a broken arm.

A second politically-motivated incident followed on February 28, 2001. Mboowa recalls that while he was sleeping several armed men broke into his residence, blindfolded him, ransacked his house, vandalized his property, and struck him on the jaw with the butt of a gun. Before departing, the men allegedly stole several YUPI files and Mboowa's membership card. Mboowa testified that he gathered the men were from the military intelligence ...

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