Man Who Says Voodoo Priests Would Torture Him If Deported to Haiti Wins Court Decision
Two Members of Three-Judge Ninth Circuit Panel
Say Further Proceedings Are Required
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision, yesterday blocked the deportation of a man who claims that if he is returned to Haiti, his native land, he will be subjected to torture by voodoo priests based on his anti-voodoo views.
Petitioner Anthony Alexandre seeks protection under the Convention Against Torture (“CAT”). Ninth Circuit Judges Marsha S. Berzon and Eric D. Miller said in a memorandum opinion that further proceedings must be conducted in connection with that claim.
Alexandre’s separate contention that he was wrongfully denied asylum was rejected by Miller and Berzon. There is a notation at the end of the opinion that Judge William A. Fletcher “would deny the petition in its entirety.”
Berzon and Miller said the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) affirmed a determination that was adverse to Alexandre on the CAT claim in reliance on a finding by an administrative law judge that, in claiming the prospects of torture, he was not credible. The Ninth Circuit judges pointed out that the government, in opposing Alexandre’s petition for review of the BIA’s decision, does not attempt to justify the credibility finding, instead insisting, “incorrectly,” that the board did not take heed of that finding.
“The government has thus forfeited any argument that might have allowed us to uphold the agency’s adverse credibility finding,” the majority wrote, adding:
“Without the adverse credibility finding, the agency’s denial of CAT relief cannot be sustained. Alexandre testified that he received numerous threats in response to his anti-voodoo activism in Haiti. Nonetheless, the immigration judge concluded that ‘[t]he record...does not support [Alexandre’s] claim that government actors or voodoo priests will torture him in Haiti because of his anti-voodoo beliefs and activism.’ In reaching that conclusion, the immigration judge noted that Alexandre had been unable to provide documentation or ‘objective evidence’ of the alleged threats. But if the adverse credibility finding is removed from the equation, then the agency could not ignore Alexandre’s testimony about the threats without giving him ‘notice of the corroboration required, and an opportunity to either provide that corroboration or explain why he cannot do so.’ ”
Finding Not Made
The immigration judge erred, the majority said, in failing to make a finding on the contention that the government of Haiti would acquiesce in reprisals against Alexandre.
Addressing the petitioner’s claims acquiesce for asylum and withholding of removal, the three judges were in agreement that relief is barred in light of Alexandre’s California conviction in connection with a beating of a person with whom he was in a domestic relationship, with an enhancement based on inflicting great bodily injury in the course of committing a felony.
The case is Alexandre v. Garland, 21-1281.
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