Israel Lopez v. Merrick Garland

NOT FOR PUBLICATION FILED UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS AUG 4 2023 FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT MOLLY C. DWYER, CLERK U.S. COURT OF APPEALS ISRAEL LOPEZ, No. 21-70628 Petitioner, Agency No. A091-679-954 v. MERRICK B. GARLAND, Attorney MEMORANDUM* General, Respondent. On Petition for Review of an Order of the Board of Immigration Appeals Argued and Submitted March 6, 2023 Pasadena, California Before: KLEINFELD and COLLINS, Circuit Judges.** Israel Lopez, a citizen of El Salvador, petitions for review of the decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) upholding the order of the Immigration Judge (“IJ”) denying his applications for withholding of removal and protection under the Convention Against Torture (“Torture Convention”). We have jurisdiction under § 242 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. § 1252, and § 2242(d) of the Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act, 8 U.S.C. * This disposition is not appropriate for publication and is not precedent except as provided by Ninth Circuit Rule 36-3. ** This matter is decided unanimously by a quorum of the panel. See 28 U.S.C. § 46(d); Ninth Cir. Gen. Order 3.2(h). § 1231 note. See Nasrallah v. Barr, 140 S. Ct. 1683, 1690–91 (2020). We review the agency’s legal conclusions de novo and its factual findings for substantial evidence. See Bringas-Rodriguez v. Sessions, 850 F.3d 1051, 1059 (9th Cir. 2017) (en banc). Under the substantial evidence standard, “the administrative findings of fact are conclusive unless any reasonable adjudicator would be compelled to conclude to the contrary.” 8 U.S.C. § 1252(b)(4)(B). We deny the petition. 1. Reviewing de novo, we conclude that the agency applied the correct legal standards in assessing whether Lopez faced a clear probability of persecution if he is removed to El Salvador. See Shrestha v. Holder, 590 F.3d 1034, 1039 (9th Cir. 2010). The IJ correctly articulated and applied the applicable nexus standard from Barajas-Romero v. Lynch, 846 F.3d 351 (9th Cir. 2017). The IJ properly described that standard as requiring only a showing that the protected ground—here, Lopez’s asserted membership in several “particular social group[s],” 8 U.S.C. § 1231(b)(3)(A)—is “a reason” for the persecution. See Barajas-Romero, 846 F.3d at 359–60. The IJ noted that this is a “less demanding standard than the ‘one central reason’ standard for asylum.” The BIA likewise recited and applied that same “a reason” standard. Although Lopez contends that the agency departed from that standard in its actual assessment of the evidence, we discern no support in the record for that contention. Lopez’s disagreement with the agency’s weighing of the evidence does not establish that the agency applied the wrong legal standards. 2 To establish his claim for withholding from removal here, Lopez had to show that it is more likely than not that he would face future persecution “because of” his “membership in a particular social group.” 8 U.S.C. § 1231(b)(3)(A); Barbosa v. Barr, 926 F.3d 1053, 1059 (9th Cir. 2019). Lopez concedes that he suffered no past persecution before he left El Salvador in 1981, but he contends that …

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