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Villafranca v. Lynch

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

August 5, 2015

EDGAR ROMERO VILLAFRANCA, Petitioner,
v.
LORETTA E. LYNCH, [*] ATTORNEY GENERAL, Respondent

Page 92

PETITION FOR REVIEW OF AN ORDER OF THE BOARD OF IMMIGRATION APPEALS.

Kevin MacMurray and MacMurray & Associates on brief for petitioner.

Joyce R. Branda, Acting Assistant Attorney General, Civil Division, Jennifer Williams, Senior Litigation Counsel, Office of Immigration Litigation, and Yedidya Cohen, Trial Attorney, Office of Immigration Litigation, on brief for respondent.

Before Lynch, Selya and Thompson, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 93

SELYA, Circuit Judge.

The petitioner, Edgar Romero Villafranca, is a Honduran national who seeks judicial review of a final order of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) denying his application for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT). After careful consideration, we deny his petition.

The background is easily sketched. In November of 2010, the petitioner entered the United States illegally, was thereafter detained, and was then paroled. He told an asylum officer that he was seeking asylum due to what he described as his attempted kidnapping or murder a year earlier. He said that, while driving his car along a Honduran road, a vehicle containing several armed men cut him off. The men were dressed in regalia of a sort that

Page 94

the petitioner thought " customary" for the special police. Three of them approached the petitioner's vehicle and, as he sped away, they opened fire. The petitioner was able to evade his assailants, but he nevertheless thought that he remained at risk because of his family's wealth and political ties.

In due course, the petitioner was served with a notice to appear before an immigration judge (IJ) and (for reasons not relevant here) his case was subsequently transferred to Massachusetts. The petitioner conceded removability and cross-applied for asylum, withholding of removal, and CAT protection. During a hearing before the IJ in February of 2013, the petitioner recounted the narrative that he had related to the asylum officer. He added that he did not report the incident because he feared that the Honduran police were involved; that he drove to his family's farm in Juticalpa following the incident; and that he remained there for roughly six months before fleeing to the United States.

The petitioner pointed to his family's upper-class status and political ties as likely reasons why he was targeted by the marauders. He mentioned that his father was a long-time member of the ruling party in Honduras and a friend of the country's then-president. Furthermore, his aunt and uncle were both entrenched in Honduran politics. Although his family had continued to live safely in Honduras before and after the attack that he described, he said that his father had received several threatening telephone calls. He went on to note that his godfather had been assassinated in 2007, albeit for unspecified reasons.

The IJ found the petitioner's testimony to be credible. She nonetheless concluded that he had not established either past persecution or a well-founded fear of future persecution. Moreover, he had failed to tie his attack to his membership in a particular social group. Based on these and other findings, the IJ ...


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