Abel Lopez-Cortaza v. Jefferson B. Sessions, III

United States Court of Appeals For the Eighth Circuit ___________________________ No. 16-3711 ___________________________ Abel Lopez-Cortaza lllllllllllllllllllllPetitioner v. Jefferson B. Sessions, III, Attorney General lllllllllllllllllllllRespondent ____________ Petition for Review of an Order of the Board of Immigration Appeals ____________ Submitted: December 14, 2017 Filed: June 27, 2018 [Unpublished] ____________ Before SMITH, Chief Judge, KELLY and ERICKSON, Circuit Judges. ____________ PER CURIAM. Abel Lopez-Cortaza petitions for review of the Board of Immigration Appeals’s (“Board”) denial of his application for asylum and withholding of removal under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). The Board affirmed the immigration judge’s (IJ) denial of asylum, finding that Lopez-Cortaza failed to establish a nexus between past persecution or a well-founded fear of future persecution and a protected ground. However, the Board vacated the IJ’s grant of CAT protection, finding that Lopez- Cortaza is unlikely to face torture upon his return to Mexico. We deny his petition for review. I. Background Lopez-Cortaza first unlawfully entered the United States in 2005. In 2006, he met and married an American woman. In 2007, after being detained by immigration officials, Lopez-Cortaza voluntarily departed the United States for Mexico, his home country. Shortly thereafter, his wife joined him. She met Lopez-Cortaza at the United States-Mexican border. Lopez-Cortaza, using his wife’s car, then drove the couple to Las Choapas, Veracruz, Mexico, where they planned to live with his mother. During the trip to Veracruz, the Mexican Army stopped them four times to check for drugs and guns, but each time permitted the couple to proceed after discovering no contraband. At all times during their Mexican trip, their vehicle displayed American- issued license plates. The record shows that during this period arbitrary arrests and detentions were widespread in Mexico, and Lopez-Cortaza and his wife received advice from a local man not to stay too long in the country because they were driving a car with American plates. After spending two weeks in Veracruz, the couple decided to move to Coatzacoalcos to stay at his uncle’s vacant house. Lopez-Cortaza stated that he and his wife experienced some trouble with the Mexican police. For instance, on one occasion they were forced to pay 900 pesos because Lopez-Cortaza drove his wife’s car (still with American plates). After about three months in Coatzacoalcos, Ms. Lopez1 returned to the United States with her car. The record does not show that Ms. Lopez ever drove alone while in Mexico. 1 The administrative record, the IJ, and Lopez-Cortaza identified Lopez- Cortaza’s wife as “Mrs. Lopez” or “Ms. Lopez.” -2- Lopez-Cortaza again illegally entered the United States in June 2007. Colorado police arrested him for driving without a license and later arrested him again for drunk driving. Lopez-Cortaza served jail time, after which he voluntarily departed for Mexico in 2009 with an IJ’s permission. At the end of 2009, Ms. Lopez returned to Mexico to be with her husband. The two—again with Lopez-Cortaza driving a car with an American license plate—were harassed by the Mexican authorities. The officers stopped them multiple times while ...

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