How U.S. Law May Protect Immigrants Facing Torture in Their Native Countries

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How U.S. Law May Protect Immigrants Facing Torture in Their Native Countries

U.S. immigration law offers a number of avenues for individuals to seek protection from removal if they are facing certain types of imminent danger in their country of origin. The rules governing such protection claims are quite complicated, however, and you can not assume that simply informing the government of a threat to your life will be enough to let you stay in the country. This is why it is always essential to work with an experienced Chicago immigration lawyer when presenting any type of asylum or protection-based claim.

Chicago Appeals Court Denies Immigration Protection Based on Deceased Brother’s Torture by Guatemalan Gang

Recently the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which oversees immigration appeals from Chicago and throughout Illinois, rejected an application to defer removal in a case in which the petitioner claimed he would be subjected to torture in his native country. The United States is a signatory to the United Nations Convention Against Torture, which prevents the federal government from returning or extraditing someone to any nation “where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.” Nevertheless, U.S. law affords immigration officials significant latitude in deciding who qualifies for protection under the Convention.

In this case, the petitioner was born in Guatemala. When he was 11 years old, the petitioner’s family relocated him to the United States, where he became a legal permanent resident. 15 years later, in 2016, the Department of Homeland Security sought to remove the petitioner from the country following his conviction on state drug charges in Illinois.

The petitioner asked to defer removal under the Convention Against Torture. Specifically, the petitioner alleged he would be subjected to torture by Guatemalan gangs if he were returned to that country. The petitioner cited the experiences of his brother, who was previously deported by the U.S. to Guatemala. According to the petitioner, a specific gang “regularly extorted” his brother for money because it perceived him to be a wealthy ex-American. The gang routinely kidnapped and beat the petitioner’s brother when he was unable to pay its demands. The gang also threatened retaliation against other family members, including the petitioner. The petitioner’s brother died in 2012.

Despite the petitioner’s testimony, an immigration judge denied his request for deferral. The judge determined the petitioner’s fears of torture were “speculative,” and that there was insufficient proof that local authorities would fail to protect him if he were returned to Guatemala. The Board of Immigration Appeals later upheld the judge’s decision, leading the petitioner to seek relief from the Seventh Circuit.

The Court of Appeals declined to reverse the decision of the immigration authorities. As the Court explained in its written decision, the specific regulation the petitioner sought protection under states a petitioner must provide evidence “that it is more likely than not that he or she would be tortured if removed.” In other words, the mere fact the petitioner’s brother was previously tortured did not prove the petitioner would also be tortured. Even the threats made to the brother about the petitioner were not specific enough, the Court said, to justify the petitioner’s request to remain in the United States.

Contact a Chicago Immigration Lawyer Today

Every immigration case is unique. The Chicago immigration attorneys at Kriezelman Burton & Associates understand this, which is why we strive to provide experienced, professional representation to individuals struggling to deal with the immigration system. Contact us today to schedule a consultation so we can sit down and learn more about your immigration problem.