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The Attorney General has discretion to grant asylum to refugees, defined as persons unable or unwilling to return to their country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. 8 U.S.C.S. § 1101(a)(42). An applicant demonstrates prima facie eligibility for relief where the evidence reveals a reasonable likelihood that the statutory requirements for relief have been satisfied.
Mendez-Gutierrez entered the United States at San Ysidro, California, on December 1, 1989. On February 10, 1997, he submitted an asylum application to the former Immigration and Naturalization Service. Mendez-Gutierrez stated that he was a member of the National Action Party (PAN) in Mexico and was persecuted by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which was in power at the time. Mendez-Gutierrez's asylum application was referred to an immigration judge, and he was served with a Notice to Appear. During the hearing Mendez-Gutierrez, who was represented by counsel, admitted his removability, withdrew his asylum application, and requested cancellation of removal. The immigration judge held Mendez-Gutierrez removable and statutorily ineligible for both cancellation of removal and voluntary departure. The immigration judge also denied Mendez-Gutierrez's request to reinstate the asylum application that he had previously withdrawn. Mendez-Gutierrez appealed to the Board, arguing that the immigration judge abused her discretion in denying his request to reinstate the withdrawn asylum application. The Board dismissed the appeal, holding that, although the failure to consider the asylum application may have been error, it did not "materially affect the outcome of the case." According to the Board, Mendez-Gutierrez had not established prima facie eligibility for asylum because he had failed to demonstrate past persecution. Mendez-Gutierrez petitioned for review of the Board.
Did Mendez-Gutierrez establish a prima facie eligibility for asylum?
Even taking all of the statements on the asylum application as true, the court held that Mendez-Gutierrez failed to establish prima facie eligibility for asylum. His vague and conclusory allegations of fear for his life if he returned to Mexico were clearly insufficient to support a finding of a well-founded fear of future persecution. The Board did not abuse its discretion in determining that Mendez-Gutierrez’ asylum application was insufficient to satisfy prima facie the statutory requirements of subjectively genuine and objectively reasonable well-founded fear. Moreover, the Board correctly declined to consider Mendez-Gutierrez’ argument that his notice to appear was defective because the argument went beyond the scope of the remand order. The Board properly refused to go beyond the court's limited remand.