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CA9 on Reasonable Fear Screening: Blancas Hermosillo v. Garland

September 14, 2023 (1 min read)

Blancas Hermosillo v. Garland

"In 2018, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reinstated a 1999 removal order entered against Petitioner Eric Blancas Hermosillo. Because Blancas Hermosillo expressed a fear of returning to Mexico, an asylum officer conducted a reasonable fear screening interview to determine whether Blancas Hermosillo should be given the opportunity to establish his claims at a merits hearing before an Immigration Judge (IJ) on his application for withholding of removal and relief under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). The asylum officer determined, and an IJ affirmed, that Blancas Hermosillo did not show a reasonable possibility of persecution or torture were he to be removed. Consequently, Blancas Hermosillo never had the opportunity to present additional evidence of his claims at a merits hearing. Blancas Hermosillo now petitions for review of the IJ’s negative reasonable fear determination at the screening stage. We agree with Blancas Hermosillo that his own credible testimony is enough at this initial stage to establish a reasonable fear of persecution and torture; substantial evidence does not support the agency determination otherwise. We grant the petition for review and remand so that Blancas Hermosillo may receive a merits hearing. ... Accepting his testimony as true, any reasonable adjudicator would be compelled to conclude that Blancas Hermosillo faces a reasonable possibility of torture with government acquiescence. In sum, we conclude that the negative reasonable fear determinations for persecution and torture are not supported by substantial evidence. We remand this case to the agency with instructions to provide Blancas Hermosillo with a hearing before an IJ on the merits of his claims for withholding of removal and protection under CAT. PETITION FOR REVIEW GRANTED AND REMANDED with instructions."

[Hats off to Zulu Ali!  Video of the oral argument here.]