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Ramirez-Perez v. Barr

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

August 13, 2019

PEDRO ANTONIO RAMÍREZ-PÉREZ, Petitioner,
v.
WILLIAM P. BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES, Respondent.

          PETITION FOR REVIEW OF AN ORDER OF THE BOARD OF IMMIGRATION APPEALS

          Rachel L. Rado and The Law Office of Rachel L. Rado, LLC on brief for petitioner.

          Juria L. Jones, Trial Attorney, U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Division, Office of Immigration Litigation, Joseph H. Hunt, Assistant Attorney General, Civil Division, and Jessica E. Burns, Senior Litigation Counsel, Office of Immigration Litigation, on brief for respondent.

          Before Howard, Chief Judge, Torruella and Selya, Circuit Judges.

          TORRUELLA, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         Pedro Antonio Ramírez-Pérez ("Ramírez") seeks review of a Board of Immigration Appeals ("BIA") order affirming the Immigration Judge's ("IJ") denial of his applications for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture ("CAT"). We deny Ramírez's petition for review.

         I.

         The following facts are derived from Ramírez's immigration court testimony, which the IJ found credible.

         Ramírez was born in Guatemala on June 29, 1994. There, he worked at a rice factory and through this job earned a higher wage than many in his community. In 2014, Ramírez began an eight-month relationship with a woman named Delmy Rodríguez. Ramírez ended this relationship after learning that Delmy was also romantically involved with a member of the Barrio 18 gang. Ramírez left Guatemala and entered the United States in May 2015, fearing for his life after three encounters with presumed Barrio 18 gang members in the preceding months. According to Ramírez, the gang members decided to assail him after "[t]hey realized [he] was making a lot of money where [he] was working."

         Ramírez's first encounter with gang members occurred early in February 2015, when four armed and masked gang members approached him and demanded his money. The second incident came just a week later as Ramírez was returning home from work. This time, two men confronted Ramírez and again demanded his money. A physical altercation took place during this second encounter, but according to Ramírez his assailants did not "hurt [him] roughly." The third and final incident occurred around April or May 2015. Gang members again approached Ramírez and told him that they would make him disappear if he did not disappear on his own. The assailants also told Ramírez not to get involved with their women -- a remark Ramírez interpreted as a reference to his relationship with Delmy. Ramírez did not report any of these incidents to the police.

         Ramírez entered the United States without inspection on May 17, 2015 and applied for asylum the following month. He appeared before an IJ on October 11, 2017. Ramírez testified that he feared returning to Guatemala because gang members would pursue him to do harm since he "had previously dated a girl, Delmy . . ., who at the same time started dating a member of the [Barrio 18] gang." Despite finding his testimony to be credible, the IJ denied Ramírez's application for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the CAT. The IJ found that Ramírez's three encounters with gang members did not amount to persecution and that he did not belong to a cognizable "particular social group" for purposes of refugee status. Ramírez then appealed to the BIA, which dismissed his appeal on October 9, 2018.

         II.

         "When, as here, the BIA adopts and affirms . . . the IJ's ruling and further justifies the IJ's conclusions, we review both the BIA's and IJ'S opinions." Nako v. Holder, 611 F.3d 45, 48 (1st Cir. 2010). We review any legal conclusions de novo, "with appropriate deference to the agency's interpretation of the underlying statute in accordance with administrative law principles." Rivas-Durán v. Barr, 927 F.3d 26, 30 (1st Cir. 2019) (quoting Vásquez v. Holder, 635 F.3d 563, 565 (1st Cir. 2011)). "By contrast, we review factual findings under the deferential 'substantial evidence standard,' meaning that we will not disturb such findings if they are 'supported by ...


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