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Enamorado-Rodriguez v. Bar

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

October 30, 2019



          Joshua D. Asher, with whom Megan McEntee, David C. Soutter, and Ropes & Gray LLP were on brief for petitioner.

          Jennifer A. Singer, Trial Attorney, U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Division, Office of Immigration Litigation, with whom Kristen A. Giuffreda, Trial Attorney, Joseph H. Hunt, Assistant Attorney General, and Shelley R. Goad, Assistant Director, were on brief for respondent.

          Before Lynch, Lipez, and Thompson, Circuit Judges.


         Darlin Eleazar Enamorado-Rodriguez ("Enamorado"), a Honduran national, came to the United States at age fifteen and sought asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture ("CAT"). He asserted he had experienced past persecution on account of a protected ground, his membership in his mother's nuclear family, and would face future persecution.

         Although the Immigration Judge ("IJ") found that Enamorado's testimony was credible, and that the abuse Enamorado suffered had indeed amounted to persecution, the IJ denied asylum relief. He held that Enamorado had not met his burden to show the required nexus. The BIA affirmed, saying in part that Enamorado had failed to submit corroborative evidence.

         We vacate the BIA's decision denying asylum and withholding of removal as to Enamorado's family membership persecution claim for relief, deny the relief Enamorado sought on alternate particular social group ("PSG") theories and for CAT relief, and remand the matter for proceedings on Enamorado's family membership persecution claim, consistent with this opinion.


         We describe first those facts relevant to our conclusion there was legal error. Facts pertinent to our rejection of Enamorado's challenges to other claims are recited with the analyses of those claims.

         Enamorado was born on January 22, 2000, in El Capuline, a small, isolated, mountainous village in the municipality of Santa Barbara, Honduras. According to the uncontradicted declaration of Enamorado's mother, Ruth Azucena Rodriguez Acosta, his father, Eleazar Enamorado Alberto, was addicted to drugs and physically abused her, including while she was pregnant with Enamorado. Days after Enamorado's birth, his father slapped his mother in front of his father's sister, who told Eleazar that he had to leave the family home. Eleazar did. Enamorado's mother then did not hear from his father for seven months. His mother then moved to San Pedro Sula with Enamorado so that she could live with her own mother.

         Enamorado's father eventually came to San Pedro Sula, and when, after six months, his mother "decided to get back together with him," they rented a room together. Within a month, Enamorado's father resumed physically abusing his mother. His mother "was never able to tell anyone how" his father abused her and did not believe the police would take action if she reported his abuse. She eventually began to work in a clothes factory, and Enamorado's paternal grandmother, who then lived in San Pedro Sula, watched Enamorado while his mother worked. When Enamorado's grandmother decided to move back to El Capuline, she took Enamorado with her, and Enamorado's mother thereafter visited him and her other child, Enamorado's sister, in El Capuline on weekends. Enamorado's father accompanied her only occasionally.

         When Enamorado was four, he and his sister moved again to live with their parents in San Pedro Sula so that his sister could start school. His father continued to use drugs and physically abuse Enamorado's mother and both children. Eleazar then took Enamorado back to his father's parents in El Capuline and did not allow Enamorado's mother to visit or retrieve him.

         When Enamorado was about six, his father tried to choke his mother in their home while their daughter watched. His mother told his father "to get out of the house," and the father then left Honduras for Mexico. His father told his own parents not to return Enamorado to his mother. Eleazar continued to threaten and harass Enamorado's mother by telephone, including threats to kill her. In fear, Enamorado's mother immediately fled Honduras for the United States without her children. She left her daughter with her cousin in San Pedro Sula. Her son, petitioner, remained with his grandparents in El Capuline.

         From about age six to age ten, Enamorado remained with his father's parents in El Capuline in a house made of dirt and stone, with no telephone or electricity. Both of his grandparents "talked very bad" about his mother. They told Enamorado that his mother had left Honduras because she did not love him and that Enamorado's maternal grandmother had caused his parents' separation. Enamorado's grandfather told him that his mother did not really love him because she had not come to say goodbye to him before leaving Honduras.

         Enamorado's grandparents went well beyond his father's instruction not to return Enamorado to his mother or allow her to visit, refusing to allow him to see or speak to anyone in his mother's family. Enamorado's sister was then living with Eleazar's sister in another nearby town. When Enamorado asked his sister about their father, she started crying and said that their father had abused her.

         During this period, Enamorado's grandparents physically and verbally abused him. On many occasions, his grandmother used a stick and rope to hit him, including on his back and his legs. His grandmother did not treat anyone else this way. His grandfather beat Enamorado with ropes used to tie horses, a water-soaked belt, or the straps of a horse saddle, and once threatened to hit Enamorado with the flat of a machete. His grandfather also verbally insulted Enamorado, calling him "stupid" and specifically referring to Enamorado's mother by calling Enamorado "son of a whore." Because of the distance between homes in El Capuline, neighbors were unaware of the abuse. The nearest police station was too far for Enamorado to travel to, and he believed the police would do nothing. Enamorado reported the abuse to his teachers but they did nothing.

         When asked at the hearing why his life with his grandparents was "very bad," Enamorado testified that both his grandparents "mistreated [him] a lot because they hated [his] mother very much." His grandmother hit him because "she hated [his] mother very much." He added that his grandfather mistreated him because "he was going to raise [Enamorado] up whichever way he wanted, the same way he was raised, and he would tell [Enamorado] that [he had] to become a man." The government did not cross-examine Enamorado about his grandparents' motivations in abusing him.

         Enamorado's grandfather eventually left El Capuline and did not return, leaving Enamorado alone with his grandmother. When Enamorado was nine or ten, his grandmother also eventually left, leaving Enamorado alone in El Capuline. His sister was living with their paternal aunt, about ninety minutes away on foot, and Enamorado could only visit infrequently. When he did, his aunt did not offer to take care of him. Enamorado did not try to leave El Capuline because his grandparents had told him to watch the house and because he lacked means to travel. He went hungry, had few clothes, and became very sick, including with dengue fever. He could not travel to the health clinic. When he was twelve or thirteen, Enamorado attempted suicide because of his sadness and loneliness, but his sister came to El Capuline and found him in time to prevent his death.

         Enamorado's grandmother eventually returned to El Capuline. The house had been robbed during her absence, for which she blamed Enamorado and beat him. Enamorado began working, helping cousins in the fields.

         The abuse was also committed by other members of Enamorado's father's family. Enamorado worked with a paternal cousin who often insulted him and his mother, calling him a "son of a whore." His cousin once threw a machete at Enamorado's hand, causing a deep cut.

         His grandmother eventually left El Capuline again. When he was fifteen, Enamorado moved to San Pedro Sula to live with his sister and her partner. Men on the street threated Enamorado with a weapon, asked him for money, and told him they could make him disappear. Enamorado also learned that the MS-13 gang had killed his paternal cousin, heightening his fear that he was in danger. Enamorado decided to go to the United States.

         He entered the United States on July 13, 2015, near Hidalgo, Texas, was detained by immigration officials, and was released to live in East Boston with his mother, step-siblings, and half-siblings.

         On February 28, 2018, Department of Homeland Security Investigations ("HSI") Gang Strike Force agents took Enamorado into custody because of his alleged association with MS-13 street gang members. In Immigration Court in Boston, Enamorado conceded through counsel that he was removable and sought asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the CAT.

         II. A. Denial of Asylum Based on Family Relationship

         Although the IJ had "some concerns regarding [Enamorado's] denials that he may be a gang member," he "ultimately . . . found [Enamorado] credible with respect to his claims of past harm in Honduras and the claim of future harm." The IJ also found that "the frequency of the beatings by [Enamorado's] paternal grandparents, . . . the deprivation of food and medical help for [Enamorado] as a young child, [and] the abandonment of [Enamorado] by both his ...

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