Edwin Romero Zambrano v. Jefferson B. Sessions III

PUBLISHED UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT No. 16-2131 EDWIN ALEXANDER ROMERO ZAMBRANO, Petitioner, v. JEFFERSON B. SESSIONS III, Attorney General, Respondent. On Petition for Review of an Order of the Board of Immigration Appeals. Argued: September 12, 2017 Decided: December 5, 2017 Before KEENAN and WYNN, Circuit Judges, and John A. GIBNEY, Jr., United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Virginia, sitting by designation. Petition for review granted; vacated and remanded by published opinion. Judge Gibney wrote the opinion, in which Judge Keenan and Judge Wynn joined. ARGUED: Benjamin Winograd, IMMIGRANT & REFUGEE APPELLATE CENTER, LLC, Alexandria, Virginia, for Petitioner. Rebecca Hoffberg Phillips, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Respondent. ON BRIEF: Laura Jacobsen, L&L IMMIGRATION LAW, PLLC, Alexandria, Virginia, for Petitioner. Chad A. Readler, Acting Assistant Attorney General, John S. Hogan, Assistant Director, Office of Immigration Litigation, Civil Division, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Respondent. GIBNEY, District Judge: Edwin Romero Zambrano appeals the decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals (the “BIA”) to affirm an Immigration Judge’s (“IJ”) decision to deny his application for asylum. Romero Zambrano claims that the BIA applied the wrong legal standard in assessing his asylum eligibility and the wrong standard of review when evaluating the IJ’s decision. As explained below, we agree that the BIA applied the wrong legal standard for assessing asylum eligibility and therefore grant the petition for review and remand to the BIA for further proceedings. I. Romero Zambrano, a native citizen of Honduras, joined the Honduran military after high school and helped local police arrest gang members. After Romero Zambrano left the army, members of the “Barrio Pobres” from the 18th Street gang tried to track him down to get their revenge. Romero Zambrano moved frequently to avoid detection and tried unsuccessfully to enter the United States five times. He finally managed to enter the United States in August 2011. The gang’s search for him continued. In 2012, armed men broke into the apartments of Romero Zambrano’s sister and former girlfriend in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, asking about his location. Gang members continued to threaten his friends and family for more than a year after that. 2 In early 2014, U.S. immigration authorities arrested the petitioner. The gang heard about Romero Zambrano’s potential deportation and increased their efforts to find him. In March 2014, gang members approached his family and friends in three different Honduran cities. First, several gang members assaulted one of the petitioner’s brothers in Elixir, Honduras. The members tied up the brother and his family while demanding to know Romero Zambrano’s whereabouts. Next, masked gang members broke into the home of the petitioner’s other brother in Choloma, Honduras, asking where Romero Zambrano lived. Gang members also confronted the petitioner’s former girlfriend while she visited San Pedro Sula and demanded to know where they could find the petitioner. After his 2014 arrest by the immigration authorities, Romero Zambrano sought asylum based on the new assaults on his ...

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