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Gonzales-Veliz v. Barr

United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

September 10, 2019, Filed

No. 18-60174


 [*223]  JENNIFER WALKER ELROD, Circuit Judge:

Maria Suyapa Gonzales-Veliz, a Honduran citizen, petitions for review of the denial of asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). While her initial petition for review was pending before us, Gonzales-Veliz also filed a motion for reconsideration with the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), which subsequently denied reconsideration by invoking an intervening decision in Matter of A-B-, 27 I. & N. Dec. 316 (A.G. 2018). Gonzales-Veliz also petitions for review of the denial of reconsideration. We deny both petitions for review.

Gonzales-Veliz is a native and citizen of Honduras. In August 2014, Gonzales-Veliz entered the United States without inspection, was apprehended at the United States border, and was removed to Honduras [**2]  under an expedited removal order. In a sworn statement, Gonzales-Veliz stated that she entered the United States "to look for employment" and that she had no fear of harm or returning to Honduras. Later in April 2015, Gonzales-Veliz once again entered the United States illegally and was apprehended. The Department of Homeland Security reinstated the 2014 removal order and sought to remove her, but this time, Gonzales-Veliz claimed that she feared returning to Honduras due to widespread gang violence there. An asylum officer referred the matter to an immigration judge (IJ).

After hearing testimony, the IJ denied Gonzales-Veliz's application for asylum, withholding of removal, and CAT protection. Citing controlling Fifth Circuit cases, the IJ held that Gonzales-Veliz was ineligible to apply for asylum because she unlawfully reentered the United States and had her previous removal order reinstated. See Ramirez-Mejia v. Lynch, 794 F.3d 485, 491 (5th Cir. 2015) ("[A]liens whose removal orders are reinstated may not apply for asylum."). The IJ further concluded that Gonzales-Veliz failed to demonstrate that she was harmed on account of a membership in a particular social group—Honduran women unable to leave their relationship. The IJ also determined [**3]  that Gonzales-Veliz failed to demonstrate that the Honduran government was unable or unwilling to protect her because her testimony showed that the police took actions to protect her. Moreover, the IJ found her not credible. As to her application for CAT protection, the IJ found that the Honduran government would not acquiesce in torture that she was allegedly expecting at the hands of another individual with whom she had previously been in a relationship. Alternatively, the IJ denied Gonzales-Veliz CAT relief because she lacked credibility.

Gonzales-Veliz appealed to the BIA, which dismissed the appeal. The BIA found that, even if Gonzales-Veliz was credible, she did not belong to her proffered particular social group because her own testimony showed that she was able to leave her relationship. The BIA further found that Gonzales-Veliz was not harmed on account of belonging to that group. The BIA denied Gonzales-Veliz's asylum and withholding of removal claims based on these grounds, and it did not rely on other grounds offered by the IJ in denying relief, such as the reentry bar for asylum and Gonzales-Veliz's lack of credibility. As to the IJ's denial of CAT relief, the BIA found [**4]  insufficient evidence to disturb the IJ's finding that the Honduran government  [*224]  would not acquiesce in torture. Gonzales-Veliz petitioned for review of the BIA's denial of asylum, withholding of removal, and CAT protection.

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938 F.3d 219 *; 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 27294 **; 2019 WL 4266121


Prior History:  [**1] Petitions for Review of Orders of the Board of Immigration Appeals.


social group, asylum, removal, persecution, membership, withholding, immigration judge, reconsideration, reconsideration motion, alien, nexus, petition for review, injunction, ex-boyfriend, domestic violence, argues, arbitrary and capricious, reasons, married woman, categorical, unwilling, ban, misinterpreted, cognizable, acquiesce, credible, grounds, torture, persecutor, reconsider

Administrative Law, Judicial Review, Reviewability, Factual Determinations, Immigration Law, Deportation & Removal, Judicial Review, Standards of Review, Substantial Evidence, Evidence, Burdens of Proof, Allocation, Evidence, Burden of Respondent, Asylum, Refugees & Related Relief, Asylum, Eligibility for Asylum, Restriction on Removal, Administrative Proceedings, Eligibility Requirements, International Law, Individuals & Sovereign States, Human Rights, Torture, Convention Against Torture, Administrative Record, Abuse of Discretion, Motions to Reconsider, Remand & Reopen, Exhaustion of Remedies, Judicial Proceedings, Jurisdiction & Venue, Jurisdiction, Judicial Proceedings, Arbitrary & Capricious Standard of Review