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CA5 Blasts BIA for "Complete Lack of Discussion of...Evidence" in Mexican CAT Case

December 12, 2022 (2 min read)

Aguado-Cuevas v. Garland (unpub.)

"Oscar Aguado-Cuevas, a Mexican national, petitions for review of the BIA’s decision affirming a denial of his application for relief under the Convention Against Torture. For the reasons below, we GRANT the petition, VACATE the BIA’s decision, and REMAND this case for further consideration of Aguado-Cuevas’s petition for CAT protection. ... Aguado-Cuevas filed an application for relief under the Convention Against Torture (“CAT”), arguing that his uncles and cousins in Mexico were cartel members who would kill him if he returned. In September 2020, Aguado-Cuevas, his father, and an expert witness testified in support of Aguado-Cuevas’s CAT application. ... Aguado-Cuevas signed a cooperation agreement and began cooperating with federal authorities. Aguado-Cuevas’s cooperation, including his agreement to testify against Adolfo Jr. and CJNG, was leaked to the media and publicized online. ... [A]n expert witness testified that Aguado-Cuevas’s chances of potential risk or torture upon returning to Mexico were “[e]xtremely high to [a] near certainty” due to his informant and debtor status. ... [T]he BIA erred by not applying the correct legal framework in which it must show that it meaningfully considered “relevant substantial evidence supporting the alien’s claims.” ... Although we remand primarily for the BIA to reconsider the state involvement prong of the CAT analysis, we note that both parties acknowledge that the BIA’s likelihood of torture analysis suffers from similar deficiencies. Accordingly, to the extent that the BIA finds that Aguado-Cuevas has shown the requisite level of state involvement upon remand, we order the BIA to also consider the likelihood of torture prong under the proper legal framework. ... Aguado-Cuevas claims that he will be murdered by CJNG as punishment for being an informant and debtor following his drug-related activities in the U.S. Concerning the likelihood of torture, Aguado-Cuevas argues—and the Government agrees—that the BIA should have more closely considered evidence of Aguado-Cuevas’s actions in the U.S. that could characterize him to CJNG as an informant and debtor. Specifically, the BIA did not properly consider evidence that (1) Aguado-Cuevas owed CJNG $120,000 after his botched deal; (2) Aguado-Cuevas was identified by the media as an informant in the prosecution of a CJNG member; (3) a text message identified Aguado-Cuevas as a potential target of the CJNG; (4) a residence where Aguado-Cuevas stayed was ransacked; and (5) CJNG routinely kills debtors and informants. Such evidence goes directly to Aguado-Cuevas’s arguments of likelihood of torture as an informant and debtor; such a theory hinges not on events in Mexico but on his actions in the U.S., making him a particular target for torture by CJNG. The BIA failed to properly consider these pieces of evidence. ... The complete lack of discussion of the aforementioned evidence suggests that the BIA has not met this standard. As before, the BIA should remand to the IJ for additional factfinding if necessary."

[Hats way off to Superlawyer Carla Espinoza!]