Sindy Alvarez Lagos v. William Barr

PUBLISHED UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT No. 17-2291 SINDY MARILU ALVAREZ LAGOS; K.D.A.A., Petitioners, v. WILLIAM P. BARR, Attorney General, Respondent. On Petition for Review of an Order of the Board of Immigration Appeals. Argued: March 19, 2019 Decided: June 14, 2019 Before GREGORY, Chief Judge, and DIAZ and HARRIS, Circuit Judges. Petition for review granted, reversed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for further proceedings by published opinion. Judge Harris wrote the opinion, in which Chief Judge Gregory and Judge Diaz joined. ARGUED: Martine Elizabeth Cicconi, AKIN GUMP STRAUSS HAUER & FELD LLP, Washington, D.C., for Petitioners. Paul Fiorino, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Respondent. ON BRIEF: Steven H. Schulman, David M. Coleman, Washington, D.C., Lauren Connell, Kate Powers, AKIN GUMP STRAUSS HAUER & FELD LLP, New York, New York, for Petitioners. Joseph H. Hunt, Assistant Attorney General, Rebekah Nahas, Office of Immigration Litigation, Civil Division, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Respondent. PAMELA HARRIS, Circuit Judge: Sindy Marilu Alvarez Lagos testified credibly that she and her then-seven-year-old daughter, natives and citizens of Honduras, were threatened with gang rape, genital mutilation, and death if they did not comply with the extortionate demands of a Barrio 18 gang member. Unable to meet those demands and fearing for their lives, Alvarez Lagos and her daughter fled to the United States, where they sought asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture. Now, almost five years later, an immigration judge and the Board of Immigration Appeals have issued a total of three separate decisions denying Alvarez Lagos’s claims. The government defends none of those decisions, including the most recent, which came after we agreed, at the government’s request, to remand the case for reconsideration. Instead, the government admits that errors remain, but argues that we should leave them unaddressed and simply remand once again so that the agency may have a fourth opportunity to analyze Alvarez Lagos’s claims correctly. We decline that request. A remand is required here on certain questions that have yet to be answered, or answered fully, by the agency. But we take this opportunity to review the agency’s disposition of other elements of Alvarez Lagos’s claims. For the reasons given below, we reverse the agency’s determination with respect to the “nexus” requirement for asylum and withholding of removal. And so that they will not recur on remand, we identify additional errors in the agency’s analysis of the “protected ground” requirement for the same forms of relief, and in the agency’s treatment of Alvarez Lagos’s claim under the Convention Against Torture. 2 I. In August of 2014, shortly after her daughter’s eighth birthday, Sindy Marilu Alvarez Lagos and her daughter entered the United States without authorization. The Department of Homeland Security soon served them with a notice to appear, charging them with removability on the ground that they were present in the United States without valid entry documents, see 8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(7)(A)(i)(I). Alvarez Lagos conceded ...

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