Rodriguez-Villar v. Barr

United States Court of Appeals For the First Circuit No. 18-1861 FLEMI BARNODIS RODRÍGUEZ-VILLAR, Petitioner, v. WILLIAM P. BARR, Attorney General, Respondent. PETITION FOR REVIEW OF AN ORDER OF THE BOARD OF IMMIGRATION APPEALS Before Howard, Chief Judge, Torruella and Selya, Circuit Judges. Kevin MacMurray and MacMurray & Associates on brief for petitioner. Joseph H. Hunt, Assistant Attorney General, Civil Division, U.S. Department of Justice, Jessica E. Burns, Senior Litigation Counsel, Office of Immigration Litigation, and John F. Stanton, Trial Attorney, Office of Immigration Litigation, on brief for respondent. July 11, 2019 SELYA, Circuit Judge. It is bad enough when acts in the nature of persecution are employed to chill the free expression of political opinion. It exacerbates the problem though, when a reviewing tribunal turns such acts upside down and heralds their chilling effect as "proof" that no likelihood of persecution exists. Because the agency's decision in this case rests upon just such an error, we grant the petition for judicial review, vacate the decision below, and remand for further proceedings. The petitioner, Flemi Barnodis Rodríguez-Villar, is a Dominican national.1 The immigration judge (IJ) found him credible, so we draw the background facts largely from his testimony. The petitioner entered the United States, without documentation, in 2003. In 2011, he returned to the Dominican Republic to care for his ailing father. Around May of that year, he opened a supermarket and soon began hosting meetings of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD) at his store. In short order, he began receiving telephone calls from members of the opposition party — the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) — which at that time controlled the government. The callers warned him that if he 1 The record reflects inconsistent spellings of the petitioner's name. For simplicity's sake, we use the spelling employed by the Board of Immigration Appeals. - 2 - continued to host PRD meetings at his store, he and his family would be harmed. The petitioner did not yield. A few weeks later, his home was ransacked and messages were written on the walls threatening him and his family with harm unless he stopped hosting PRD meetings. The petitioner reported this incident to the police, who told him that they would investigate in exchange for money and liquor from his store. Even though the petitioner complied, the police did nothing. The meetings continued and so did the mistreatment. The petitioner moved his family into a new home in a different neighborhood. Soon thereafter, that house was broken into, many of his appliances were stolen, and another threat of violence was scrawled on a wall. Matters came to a head several months later. As the petitioner was closing his store for the day, he was set upon and beaten by two men. His attackers admonished that if he did not stop hosting PRD meetings, he "knew what was going to happen." The men added that he should "get ready because of what they were going to do to [his] family." Fearing for his ...

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