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Silais v. Sessions

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

April 28, 2017

Hernel Silais, Petitioner,
Jefferson B. Sessions III, Attorney General of the United States, Respondent.

          Argued April 11, 2017

         Petition for Review of an Order of the Board of Immigration Appeals. No. A200-567-560

          Before WOOD, Chief Judge, and Flaum and Easterbrook, Circuit Judges.

          Flaum, Circuit Judge.

         Hernel Silais, a Haitian citizen and opposition political party member, petitioned the United States for asylum, withholding of removal, and relief under the Convention Against Torture ("CAT"). The Immigration Judge, and later the Board of Immigration Appeals (collectively, the "Agency"), denied his petition. We do the same.

         I. Background

         On February 5, 2011, Silais arrived in the United States without an immigrant visa or other valid entry document. The Department of Homeland Security ("DHS") charged Silais with inadmissibility under 8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(7)(A)(i). In response, Silais conceded his inadmissibility, based on his lack of valid documents, but requested asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under CAT.

         A. Removal Hearing

         On April 30, 2013, an Immigration Judge ("IJ") conducted Silais's removal hearing. Silais testified and submitted documentary evidence. The IJ then continued the removal hearing to May 15, when Silais's country-conditions expert, Brian Concannon, was available to testify. Concannon is a human-rights attorney and the director of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, a non-profit organization based in Boston.

         1. Silais's Testimony

         Silais testified to the following alleged facts: He was born in Aux Cayes, Haiti. In 2003, he joined a Haitian political party known as the Oganizasyon Pep Kap Lite (the "OPL"). At that time, the OPL was one of the two largest opposition political parties in Haiti. A group known as the Chimeres, who supported then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, often disturbed OPL meetings that Silais had organized, beating participants, firing guns, or throwing rocks. Although the Chimeres was not a government entity, it allegedly received benefits from various officials and included police officers in their ranks. Silais identified two particular Chimeres members he claimed he repeatedly encountered between 2002 and 2010: Ronald Felix and Charles Bertrand.

         During a soccer game in 2002 where Silais was distributing political information, for example, both Felix and Bertrand allegedly threw rocks at the spectators and asked Silais about the papers he was distributing. They did not injure Silais at this incident.

         At a later event, however, Felix purportedly attacked Silais in his neighborhood, pushing Silais down, placing a revolver in his mouth, and threatening to kill him. When other people approached them, Felix released Silais, who ran away. Felix allegedly threw rocks at Silais as he escaped.

         Silais further testified that on February 22, 2004, Felix and Bertrand went to a political meeting Silais was attending and began asking him about his political affiliation. Silais informed them that he only wanted to educate people, and the Chimeres did not harm him. During a Mardi Gras celebration soon afterward, though, both Felix and Bertrand allegedly attacked Silais in his neighborhood. Consequently, he fled and hid at his friend James Lete's house. Silais then testified that when the Chimeres found Silais, they hit him with their hands and a pistol and struck his leg with a machete. After Silais began to bleed, Felix and Bertrand stopped, and Silais escaped to another friend's house. The Chimeres then went to Silais's family's house and allegedly beat certain family members.[1]

         Silais then stated that, in September 2004, the Chimeres attacked him while he was speaking at a political meeting and forced him to run away.

         According to Silais, he left Haiti in November 2004 for the Dominican Republic, where he remained until January 2006, [2]when he heard that Haiti's condition had improved. Silais testified that he wanted to complete his studies in Haiti on "veterinary and agricultural techniques" that required two years of classroom work and one year of practice. He graduated from the program in January 2007.

         Afterward, he worked with an organization that he had cofounded to assist Haiti's orphaned children.[3] Silais's organization hosted an event for World AIDS Day on December 1, 2009, and Felix, Bertrand, and other Chimeres attended. They allegedly questioned Silais about what he was doing there, beat him, and forced him to leave the event.

         Silais finally testified that during Haiti's 2010 presidential election, Silais was a representative for the Reports Peyizan political party, supporting then-candidate Michel Martelly While working as a "poll watcher, " Silais witnessed Felix and Bertrand attempt to commit voter fraud by stuffing ballots for Jude Celestin, their preferred candidate. When Silais tried to stop them, Felix purportedly hit and kicked him. As Silais tried to flee, Felix and Bertrand threw rocks at him. The police arrived and detained Felix, but released him after Silais departed without filing a report. Silais testified that he currently experiences lingering pain from this incident.

         Silais never contacted the Haitian police to report any of the above alleged encounters with the Chimeres. After the election, Silais left Haiti by boat to Guatemala.[4] ...

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