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Rodriguez-Mercado v. Lynch

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

December 23, 2015

Sintia Yolissa Rodriguez-Mercado, Petitioner
v.
Loretta E. Lynch, Attorney General of the United States, Respondent

Submitted September 22, 2015

Petition for Review of an Order of the Board of Immigration Appeals.

For Sintia Yolissa Rodriguez-Mercado, Petitioner: Matthew Lorn Hoppock, HOPPOCK LAW FIRM, LLC, Overland Park, KS.

For Loretta E. Lynch, Attorney General of the United States, Respondent: Karen Yolanda Drummond, Jeffery R. Leist, Sabatino F. Leo, Trial Attorney, Carl H. McIntyre, Suzanne Nardone, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Civil Division, Office of Immigration Litigation, Washington, DC.

Before LOKEN, BENTON, and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 416

LOKEN, Circuit Judge.

Sintia Yolissa Rodriguez-Mercado, a citizen of Honduras, petitions for judicial review of a final order of the Board of Immigration Appeals (" BIA" ) denying her application for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture. Rodriguez-Mercado challenges the Immigration Judge's (" IJ's" ) adverse credibility finding and alleges that the BIA failed to consider whether country conditions independently established her eligibility for asylum relief. She has also moved to remand her case to the BIA to consider whether she is eligible for voluntary departure. We deny the petition for review and the motion to remand.

I.

Rodriguez-Mercado is eligible for asylum if the Attorney General determines that she is a " refugee," defined as a person who is unwilling to return to her country of origin " because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion." 8 U.S.C. § § 1101(a)(42), 1158(b)(1)(A). A protected ground must be " at least one central reason for persecuting the applicant." 8 U.S.C. § 1158(b)(1)(B)(I); see Ortiz-Puentes v.

Page 417

Holder, 662 F.3d 481, 483 (8th Cir. 2011). Rodriguez-Mercado alleges that repeated domestic violence by her former partner was persecution on account of her membership in a particular social group, namely, " Honduran women who are viewed as property by virtue of their positions within a domestic relationship and who are unable to leave the relationship." When private persons committed the alleged persecution, as in this case, the asylum petitioner must establish that the assaults " were either condoned by the government or were committed by private actors that the government was unwilling or unable to control." Osuji v. Holder, 657 F.3d 719, 721-22 (8th Cir. 2011) (quotation omitted).

An immigration officer interviewed Rodriguez-Mercado after she entered the United States without inspection near Rio Grande City, Texas, on May 9, 2010. Rodriguez-Mercado admitted that she entered illegally, claimed she was seeking employment in Virginia, and said she did not fear returning to Honduras. However, when the Department of Homeland Security served a Notice to Appear that commenced removal proceedings, she applied for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture. Rodriguez-Mercado testified at a credible-fear interview before an immigration officer that she fled Honduras because her former partner and father of her child, Juan Carlos Izaguirre, repeatedly beat and raped her while they were living together, and she feared for her personal safety if she returned to Honduras.

Rodriguez-Mercado testified at length at the July 2012 asylum hearing. The IJ found that her testimony was not credible, that inconsistencies in the testimony " go to the heart of her asylum claim," and that two " crucial" corroborating documents were fabricated. Though Rodriguez-Mercado also submitted documents establishing that domestic violence is widespread in Honduras, the IJ found that " none of these documents are sufficiently detailed, relevant, or persuasive enough to rectify [her] incredible testimony or otherwise establish that she meets the definition of a refugee." The IJ denied the application and ordered Rodriguez-Mercado removed, also ruling that she was ineligible for ...


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