Miratbek Zhakypbaev v. Jefferson B. Sessions III

In the United States Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit No. 17‐1459 MIRATBEK ZHAKYPBAEV, Petitioner, v. JEFFERSON B. SESSIONS III, Attorney General of the United States, Respondent. Petition for Review of an Order of the Board of Immigration Appeals No. A205‐802‐225 ARGUED SEPTEMBER 19, 2017 — DECIDED JANUARY 26, 2018 Before WOOD, Chief Judge, and EASTERBROOK and ROVNER, Circuit Judges. ROVNER, Circuit Judge. The petitioner Miratbek Zhakypbaev was a native and citizen of Kyrgyzstan, who was admitted to the United States in September 2012 as a nonimmigrant student to attend the Computer Systems Institute. His wife and 2 No. 17‐1459 three daughters were admitted in December 2012 based on his status. The petitioner did not attend the Computer Systems Institute after February 4, 2013, and in April 2013, filed applications for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). The petitioner’s claims were premised on the events surrounding the ouster of Kyrgyz president Kurmanbek Bakiev in Kyrgyzstan in April 2010. The petitioner claimed that based on his connections with the Bakiev family and with the political party associated with Bakiev, he was persecuted during that time. He argued that he was eligible for asylum and withholding of removal because he was a victim of past persecution and had a well‐founded fear of future persecution in Kyrgyzstan on account of his political opinion and his membership in a particular social group—that of persons associated with the Bakiev family. In addition, he claimed that he was entitled to protection under CAT. The Immigration Judge (the IJ) denied relief, holding that the petitioner had failed to demonstrate that his persecution was connected to his political opinion or social group, and that he had failed to establish a threat of torture. The Board of Immigration Appeals (the Board) adopted and affirmed that denial, while also writing separately. The petitioner now appeals those determinations to this court. Because the Board adopted and affirmed the IJ’s conclusion with respect to the asylum and withholding of removal claims, as well as providing its own analysis, we review both decisions. Bathula v. Holder, 723 F.3d 889, 897 (7th Cir. 2013). We review the decisions denying asylum and withholding of removal for substantial evidence, applying de novo review to No. 17‐1459 3 legal questions but reversing factual findings only if the record lacks substantial evidence to support them. Id. at 897–98. Under the substantial evidence standard, we uphold the agency determination if it is supported by “reasonable, substantial, and probative evidence on the record considered as a whole.” Id. at 898. “Reversal is appropriate only where, reviewing the record as a whole, ‘a reasonable factfinder would have to’ reach a contrary conclusion.” Id., quoting INS v. Elias‐Zacarias, 502 U.S. 478, 481 (1992). The Secretary of Homeland Security or the Attorney General may grant asylum to aliens who qualify as refugees under 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(42)(A). Cojocari v. Sessions, 863 F.3d 616, 620 (7th Cir. 2017); 8 U.S.C. § 1158(b)(1)(A). A person seeking asylum must ...

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