Submitted: May 17, 2018
Petition for Review of an Order of the Board of Immigration
SHEPHERD, KELLY, and GRASZ, Circuit Judges.
SHEPHERD, Circuit Judge.
Alexander Gomez-Rivera, a native and citizen of El Salvador,
petitions for review of an order of the Board of Immigration
Appeals ("BIA") upholding an immigration
judge's ("IJ") denial of his applications for
asylum and withholding of removal. We affirm.
entered the United States in June 2014, when he was 13 years
old. In August 2014, the Department of Homeland Security
commenced removal proceedings against him. Gomez-Rivera
conceded removability and designated El Salvador as the
country of removal. He was granted voluntary departure, but
subsequently applied for asylum under 8 U.S.C. §
1158(b)(1)(A) and withholding of removal under 8 U.S.C.
§ 1231(b)(3) based on his asserted membership in a
particular social group-comprised of the nuclear family
members of his father-and imputed anti-gang political
testified that in El Salvador members of the MS-13 and MS-18
gangs harassed and attempted to recruit him from ages ten to
thirteen. Members of MS-13 approached him two to three times
a week at the soccer field. They hit him during soccer games
and threw rocks at him when he rode his bike to the store.
Approximately four months before he left El Salvador, five
members of the gang kicked and beat him at the soccer field.
Members of the MS-18 gang approached him at school, but never
physically harmed him. Gomez-Rivera stated that the gangs
killed three boys and he was afraid they would kill him too.
claims he was targeted by the gangs because his father was a
former police officer in El Salvador. His father-whose
nickname is "gallo," which means rooster-fled El
Salvador in 2006 or 2007 after being threatened by gang
members. Gomez-Rivera was around six years old at the time.
Although the gangs never claimed to target Gomez-Rivera
because of his father, they referred to Gomez-Rivera as
"son of the gallo" and told him they wanted to use
him to attract his father. Gomez-Rivera testified he was
approached by gangs more than others were, but also stated
his friends, who did not have police officer fathers, were
approached the same number of times per week as he was.
found Gomez-Rivera credible, but denied his claims. The IJ
determined Gomez-Rivera was not eligible for asylum because
he established neither past persecution nor a well-founded
fear of future persecution on account of a protected ground.
The IJ found the evidence was insufficient to show an imputed
anti-gang political opinion based on his father's former
occupation or to show the gangs targeted him based on his
relationship to his father. Rather, the IJ found, the harm
Gomez-Rivera experienced was merely incidental or tangential
to the gangs' general goal of recruitment. The IJ
dismissed Gomez-Rivera's application for withholding of
removal for the same reasons.
dismissed Gomez-Rivera's appeal, finding he failed to
demonstrate the persecution was or will be on account of a
protected ground. Although the gangs referenced
Gomez-Rivera's father, the BIA found the IJ did not
clearly err in concluding the gangs targeted Gomez-Rivera for
general recruitment purposes and his relationship to his
father was merely incidental or tangential to that goal.
appeals, claiming the IJ and BIA applied the incorrect legal
standard and erred in finding he was not persecuted on
account of his particular social group or political opinion.
review the BIA's decision as the final agency decision,
but review the IJ's decision to the extent that the BIA
adopted the IJ's findings or reasoning."
Mendoza-Saenz v. Sessions, 861 F.3d 720, 722 (8th
Cir. 2017) (per curiam). "We review the BIA's legal
determinations de novo, according substantial deference to
the BIA's interpretation of the statutes and regulations
it administers." Id. (internal quotation marks
omitted). "[F]indings of fact are conclusive unless ...