Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Ninth Circuit Upholds Deportation of Lebanese Torture Victim
Panel Says Conditions in His Native Country Have Sufficiently Improved for Convicted Swindler to Return
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
Conditions in Lebanon have improved sufficiently in recent years to permit immigration officials to return a convicted felon to that country despite a previous finding that he had been tortured there, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled yesterday.
The panel affirmed a ruling by the Board of Immigration Appeals that the Convention Against Torture does not forbid the removal of Khalil Salim Arbid, 38, from the United States.
Arbid entered the United States from Mexico at the Douglas, Ariz. border crossing in 2000, falsely claiming to be a U.S. citizen. He was served with notice to appear before an immigration judge three months later.
He presented evidence that he had been tortured at the hands of Syrian intelligence agents in Lebanon in the late 1990s, and had fled to Mexico. The IJ found that he had a well-founded fear of persecution and granted asylum eligibility and withholding of removal.
Arbid took up residence in the Washington, D.C. area, where he was arrested in 2007 and charged with mail fraud. Prosecutors said he and another man fraudulently schemed to get nearly $2 million by refinancing a Virginia residence that Arbid put up as collateral for multiple loans.
To execute the frauds, according to news accounts, Arbid would use false documentation to make it appear to the subsequent lenders that the prior loans had been paid off, or, in one instance, to have the proceeds of a loan payoff sent to him at a phony address instead of being paid to the proper party.
In April 2008, he pled guilty to mail fraud and was sentenced to 16 months in prison and ordered to pay $650,000 in restitution. The Department of Homeland Security then sought to deport him on the ground that he was no longer eligible for asylum or withholding of removal because he had been convicted of a “particularly serious crime.”
The immigration judge ruled that his crime was particularly serious, and that present conditions in Lebanon did not require that removal be deferred under the CAT. The Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed and ordered his removal.
Arbid petitioned the Ninth Circuit for review of the BIA order. The government responded by arguing that the court lacked jurisdiction because the determination that a crime is particularly serious is non-discretionary.
The panel—Judges Susan Graber and Richard C. Tallman, joined by Senior District Judge Robert J. Timlin of the Central District of California, sitting by designation—ruled that it had jurisdiction, because the BIA must make the “particularly serious” determination on a case-by-case basis. But it upheld the board’s order on the merits.
No Abuse of Discretion
The IJ and the BIA did not abuse their discretion, the panel said, by taking into consideration the nature of the offense, the length of the sentence, the amount of the loss—as reflected by the restitution order—and the fact that Arbid, although he pled guilty, denied at the removal hearing that he was responsible. The likelihood of reoffense, the court said, was sufficiently high to support the IJ’s finding that Arbid was a danger to the community.
With respect to the CAT issue, the court said there was substantial evidence supporting the IJ’s determination that Arbid was unlikely to be persecuted if returned to Lebanon.
The judges reasoned:
“Since the late 1990s when Arbid was persecuted for his anti-Syrian views, the Syrian military has withdrawn from Lebanon, an anti-Hezbollah majority has wrested control of the legislature, and the political leader Arbid previously supported has returned from exile to help govern the state. This evidence does not compel a different result [than that reached by the IJ and the BIA.].
The case is Arbid v. Holder, 09-73211.
Copyright 2012, Metropolitan News Company