Abduvakhob Alimbaev v. Attorney General United States

PRECEDENTIAL UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT _______________ No. 16-4313 _______________ ABDUVAKHOB ABDUKAKHAROVICH ALIMBAEV, Petitioner v. ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent _______________ On Petition for Review of an Order of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA No. A079-729-904) Immigration Judge: Honorable Charles M. Honeyman _______________ Argued: June 12, 2017 Before: JORDAN and KRAUSE, Circuit Judges, and STEARNS, District Judge.* * The Honorable Richard G. Stearns, United States District Judge for the District of Massachusetts, sitting by designation. (Opinion Filed: September 25, 2017) Lawrence H. Rudnick (Argued) Rudnick Immigration Group 1608 Walnut Street Suite 1700 Philadelphia, PA 19103 Counsel for Petitioner Chad A. Readler, Acting Assistant Attorney General Civil Division Ethan B. Kanter, Deputy Chief, National Security Unit Melissa K. Lott Jefferson B. Sessions, III. Daniel I. Smulow (Argued) United States Department of Justice Office of Immigration Litigation P.O. Box 878 Ben Franklin Station Washington, DC 20044 Counsel for Respondent Ryan Houldin Council on American-Islamic Relations 1501 Cherry Street Suite 330 Philadelphia, PA 19102 Counsel for Amicus Petitioner 2 _______________ OPINION OF THE COURT _______________ KRAUSE, Circuit Judge. This disconcerting case, before our Court for the second time, has a lengthy procedural history marked by conflict between the Board of Immigrations Appeals (BIA) and the Immigration Judge (IJ) and fueled by troubling allegations that Petitioner, an Uzbek national, relished watching violent terroristic videos, while apparently harboring anti-American sympathies. The issue on appeal, however, is whether the BIA correctly applied the clear error standard of review, as required, when reviewing the IJ’s factfinding in this case—an inquiry that highlights the role of faithful adherence to applicable standards of review in preserving the rule of law, safeguarding the impartiality of our adjudicatory processes, and ensuring that fairness and objectivity are not usurped by emotion, regardless of the nature of the allegations. Because we conclude that the BIA misapplied the clear error standard when reversing the IJ’s finding that Petitioner’s testimony was credible, we will grant the petition for review of the BIA’s removal order, vacate the denial of Petitioner’s applications for adjustment of status, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT), and remand once more to the BIA. I. Factual and Procedural Background Petitioner Abduvakhob A. Alimbaev is a native and citizen of Uzbekistan. According to his testimony before the 3 IJ,1 when he was a young teenager in the early-to-mid 1990’s, Alimbaev attended a handful of services led by Obidkhon Qori Nazarov, an imam who was accused by the Uzbek government—reputed for religious intolerance—of preaching violence and plotting a government takeover. During that time period, Uzbek authorities rescinded Nazarov’s license to lead religious services, making it illegal for citizens to attend religious gatherings he hosted. According to Alimbaev, on a day Uzbek authorities came to Nazarov’s apartment, Alimbaev was among a crowd of two- to three-hundred followers and reporters, all gathered to seek religious guidance and to prevent the government from surreptitiously arresting Nazarov. Alimbaev believes that when he was standing ...

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