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CA4, En Banc, on El Salvador, MS-13: Portillo Flores v. Garland

June 29, 2021 (2 min read)

Portillo Flores v. Garland

"When he was 15 years old, Hernan Portillo-Flores (“Petitioner”), a resident of El Salvador, sought refuge in the United States. When Petitioner was living in El Salvador, El Pelón, a leader of the infamous gang MS-13, and other gang members beat Petitioner on multiple occasions (once almost to the point of death) and made death threats against him because El Pelón wanted to date Petitioner’s sister. Despite finding Petitioner and his sister credible, and despite hearing testimony that El Pelón showed up with the police to threaten Petitioner’s mother at her home, the immigration judge (“IJ”) denied Petitioner’s claims for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture (“CAT”), and ordered him removed from the United States. The Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) affirmed. In his petition for review, Petitioner contends that the BIA disregarded pertinent, significant evidence; failed to make factual findings sufficient to support its conclusion; failed to provide sufficient explanation for its conclusions; and did not consider the age of Petitioner at the time of his alleged persecution. Although we owe deference to the BIA, that deference is not blind. Here, where the agency contravened prevailing case law, disregarded crucial evidence, and failed to explain its decisions, we are compelled to grant the petition for review, vacate the immigration court decisions, and remand to the agency for further proceedings."

[Hats way off to Paul Whitfield Hughes, III, MCDERMOTT WILL & EMERY LLP, Washington, D.C., Benjamin J. Osorio, Alexandra Williams, MURRAY OSORIO PLLC, Fairfax, Virginia; Sarah P. Hogarth, MCDERMOTT WILL & EMERY LLP, Washington, D.C., D.C. Drake, DRAKE IMMIGRATION LAW, PLLC, Alexandria, Virginia; Anam Rahman CALDERÓN SEGUIN PLC, Fairfax, Virginia; Jillian N. Blake, BLAKE IMMIGRATION LAW, PLLC, Alexandria, Virginia; David L. Cleveland, LAW OFFICE OF DAVID CLEVELAND, Washington, D.C.; Johanna M. Gaughan, GABRIELA J. MATTHEWS & ASSOCIATES, Durham, North Carolina; Tamara L. Jezic, Diana M. Pak Yi, JEZIC & MOYSE, LLC, Wheaton, Maryland; Evelyn R.G. Smallwood, HATCH ROCKERS IMMIGRATION, Durham, North Carolina, for Amici AILA DC and Carolinas Chapters. Charles Shane Ellison, Katherine L. Evans, Amanda G. Dixon, DUKE UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW, Durham, North Carolina; Tyler A. Young, Martin J. Demoret, David Yoshimura, Robert C. Gallup, FAEGRE DRINKER BIDDLE & REATH LLP, Des Moines, Iowa, for Amicus American Immigration Lawyers Association. Steven H. Schulman, AKIN GUMP STRAUSS HAUER & FELD, LLP, Washington, D.C., for Amici Former Immigration Judges and Board of Immigration Appeals Members. Andrew Frackman, New York, New York, John B. Sprangers, Rob Barthelmess, O’MELVENY & MYERS LLP, Los Angeles, California, for Amici Legal Aid Justice Center and Immigrant Health Experts. Lawrence D. Rosenberg, JONES DAY, Washington, D.C., for Amicus Fairfax Court Appointed Special Advocates. Stephen B. Kinnaird, Washington, D.C., Elizabeth Rose Kenerson, Katherine K. Solomon, Mary Wolfe, Zachary Zwillinger, PAUL HASTINGS LLP, New York, New York, for Amicus Kids in Need of Defense!]