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Pena Oseguera v. Barr

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

August 23, 2019

DANY ARIEL PENA OSEGUERA, Petitioner
v.
WILLIAM P. BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL, Respondent

          Petition for Review of an Order of the Board of Immigration Appeals

          Before JOLLY, COSTA, and ENGELHARDT, Circuit Judges.

          KURT D. ENGELHARDT, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         Dany Ariel Pena Oseguera (Pena Oseguera) is a native of Honduras. He appeals the denial of his application for asylum and withholding of removal.

         I.

         In early 2013, Pena Oseguera was a university student and lived with his family. During that time, his mother, a Honduran supervisory police officer, received a tip about corrupt police officers who were colluding with gangs. She referred the tip to a member of the police force with jurisdiction to investigate corruption. The investigator was murdered in June 2013.

         Pena Oseguera claims he was approached later in 2013 by a person who offered him a job as a bill collector. Pena Oseguera expressed interest but later declined the offer. At that point, the person threatened to kill him. Pena Oseguera later found out that the person was a gang member. Several days later, Pena Oseguera's mother received two text messages threatening her entire family. The messages noted that she was a police officer and specifically mentioned Pena Oseguera.

         Pena Oseguera's parents quickly arranged for him to travel to the United States. After he left, his mother received two more messages threatening her family. She also stated that over a year later, her home was shot up by unknown assailants, who she suspected were the corrupt police officers[1].

         Pena Oseguera applied for asylum, withholding of removal, and relief under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). On June 6, 2016, the Immigration Judge (IJ) granted relief under CAT. The IJ did not grant the asylum and withholding of removal requests, finding that Pena Oseguera did not establish a nexus between the alleged persecution and a legally "protected ground." Pena Osegeura appealed, and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) upheld the IJ's determination on April 3, 2017. He then timely filed a petition for review of the BIA's decision on May 3, 2017.

         II.

         Courts of appeals have exclusive jurisdiction to review final orders of removal. 8 U.S.C. § 1252(a)(5) (2012). This court usually only reviews the BIA's final decision, unless, as in this instance, the BIA's decision is affected by the IJ's decision. In that circumstance, we review both. Sealed Petitioner v. Sealed Respondent, 829 F.3d 379, 383 (5th Cir. 2016). We review legal conclusions de novo and factual findings for substantial evidence. Id.

         III.

         As an applicant for asylum, Pena Oseguera must show that he is "unable or unwilling to return" to his country of origin "because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion." 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(42). Pena Oseguera must also show a nexus - that the protected ground "was or will be at least one central reason for persecuting the applicant." Id. at § 1158(b)(1)(B)(i). A central motive is not "incidental, tangential, superficial, or subordinate to another reason for harm." Shaikh v. Holder, 588 F.3d 861, 864 (5th Cir. 2009) (quoting In re J-B-N & S-M, 24 I. & N. Dec. 208, 214 (BIA 2007)).

         At the time we heard oral arguments in this case, Matter of L-E-A- was pending before the Attorney General. 27 I. & N. Dec. 581 (U.S. Att'y Gen. 2019). That case directly took up the question of whether families qualified as "social groups" for the purposes of refugee status.[2] We held this case in abeyance pending a decision by the Attorney General. A decision has now been published, and Matter of L-E-A stands for the proposition that families may qualify as social groups, but the decision must be reached on a case-by-case basis. The "applicant must establish that his specific family group is defined with sufficient particularity and is socially distinct in his society." 27 I. & N. Dec. 581, 586 (U.S. ...


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