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Ang v. Holder

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

July 10, 2013

SUNARTO ANG, Petitioner,
ERIC H. HOLDER, JR., Attorney General, Respondent.


Wei Jia and Law Office of Wei Jia on brief for petitioner.

Janette L. Allen, Trial Attorney, Office of Immigration Litigation, Civil Division, U.S. Department of Justice, Stuart F. Delery, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Civil Division, and Stephen J. Flynn, Assistant Director, Office of Immigration Litigation, on brief for respondent.

Before Lynch, Chief Judge, Howard and Thompson, Circuit Judges.

HOWARD, Circuit Judge.

Sunarto Ang and his wife Tuti Erlina, who are citizens of Indonesia, seek review of a final order from the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). Because no record evidence compels a different result than that espoused by the Immigration Court and upheld by the BIA, the petition for review is denied.

I. Background

Ang and Erlina entered the United States on March 29, 2007 as nonimmigrant visitors with authorization to remain in the United States until September 28, 2007. They overstayed their visas, and in late 2007 they applied to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for asylum. In May 2008, DHS filed Notices to Appear with the Immigration Court, charging Ang and Erlina with removability under Section 237(a)(1)(B) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(1)(B), for remaining in the United States for longer than permitted. Ang and Erlina conceded removability, renewed their application for asylum, and applied for withholding of removal and protection under the Convention Against Torture. They both testified before an Immigration Judge (IJ), who found their testimony credible. We summarize this testimony below.

Ang was born in Indonesia to parents of Chinese ethnicity, and he followed Buddhism until his adulthood. Ang's father owned a store where indigenous Muslims would demand money. If Ang's father did not pay them, they would rummage the store. In 1982, these Muslims beat Ang's father. Because of this beating, Ang's mother fell sick.[1] Ang's father reported the incident to the authorities, but "the police didn't come."

In 1988, Ang converted to Christianity. That same year he met Erlina, and they were married in 1990. Because Erlina was Muslim, Ang converted to Islam, but he was only "pretending" so that he could marry her. During their marriage, Ang and Erlina attended church together. Although they were not baptized at the time, they considered themselves Christians. Since 1988, Ang has traveled outside of Indonesia and returned at least three times, following advice from friends that such travel would make it easier to obtain a visa to enter the United States. Erlina joined Ang on one of these trips, to Malaysia. Ang also traveled alone to Australia, but he did not apply for asylum there because he "didn't feel Australia was the right place for [him]." Ang and Erlina have visas to enter South Korea as well, but they did not travel there.

In 1998, Ang and his father both owned stores that were burned in an anti-Chinese riot in Jakarta. Ang tried to flee on a motorcycle, but the mob stopped him. They took off his helmet and said, "Hey, this is Chinese. Finish him. Finish him." Ang was stabbed in the lower back and pretended to be unconscious. Later, a man helped Ang to the hospital, where he received stitches. Ang notified the police, who gave him a written report and later told him that they could not find the perpetrators. Ang's father was so shocked by the riots that he died about seven months later. Since 1998, nothing has happened to Ang or his family. His family remained in Indonesia after he left.

Erlina's family found out that she had converted to Christianity. In December 2006, shortly after their discovery, her family members beat, stepped on, and slapped Erlina, calling her an "undevoted child." Erlina's Muslim neighbors saw the incident but did nothing. Erlina did not call the police because she thought it would be wasteful, given that the majority of Indonesia's population is Muslim.

Ang and Erlina entered the United States in March 2007. They initially settled in Philadelphia and eventually moved to New Hampshire. Erlina's family calls her to threaten her into returning to Islam, and they often say that they want to kill her. Erlina feels that she will not get protection from the police if she returns to Indonesia because the police are sometimes afraid of Muslim groups. One of these groups, to which her family belongs, is Mohammed Deif, which terrorizes Christians.

After hearing this testimony, the IJ rejected Ang and Erlina's application for asylum, stating that the 1982 beating of Ang's father and the 1998 riot did not amount to persecution and did not involve government officials. The IJ said that the riot was not a "persecutory incident targeting [Ang]" because he "happened to get caught up in the riot." The IJ also held that Erlina's single beating by her family did not rise to the level of persecution. The IJ held that Ang does not have a well-founded fear of future persecution, given his multiple trips to and from Indonesia, and that death threats from Erlina's family do not give Erlina a well-founded fear of future persecution either. The IJ's ruling relied in part on the State Department's Country Conditions Report and International Religious ...

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