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Immigration Law

CA3: BIA Ignored "Overwhelming Evidence" of Persecution: Ghanem v. Atty. Gen.

Ghanem v. Atty. Gen.

"Adel Ghanem, a former lawful permanent resident of the United States, seeks to avoid removal to Yemen, from which he fled to avoid persecution on account of political opinion. He pursues three forms of relief that were denied by the Immigration Judge (IJ) and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA): asylum under the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. § 1158(a), withholding of removal under the Act, 8 U.S.C. § 1231(b)(3), and withholding of removal under the Convention Against Torture, 8 U.S.C. § 1252, 8 C.F.R. § 1208.16(c). Ghanem was kidnapped and tortured before being convicted and sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment for political opposition to the Houthi regime. We will therefore grant the petition for review and remand to the BIA. ... We begin by reviewing the agency’s determination that Ghanem was ineligible for asylum under the INA because he was not persecuted “on account of” political opinion. We perceive two errors in its analysis: First, the Board’s conclusion ignores overwhelming evidence that Ghanem was persecuted on account of political opinion. Second, it erroneously treated familial relationships as disqualifying and failed to give the proper weight to the substantial record evidence that a protected ground remains one central reason for Ghanem’s persecution. ... Illustrating “gross, flagrant [and] mass violations of human rights” that he would be unable to escape, the record evidence not only fails to support but directly contradicts the BIA’s conclusions that Ghanem is not likely to be tortured with the government’s acquiescence, if returned to Yemen. 8 C.F.R. § 1208.16(c)(3)(iii).8 The denial of relief under CAT therefore cannot withstand even our most deferential review. ... For the foregoing reasons, we will grant Ghanem’s petition, vacate the BIA’s order, and remand to the agency for further proceedings consistent with this opinion."

[Hats off to pro bono publico appointed counsel Will Weaver, Ian Gershengorn and Sam Kaplan!]