Ignacio Balaez Serra v. U.S. Attorney General

USCA11 Case: 21-10471 Document: 55-1 Date Filed: 02/15/2023 Page: 1 of 22 [PUBLISH] In the United States Court of Appeals For the Eleventh Circuit ____________________ No. 21-10471 ____________________ IGNACIO BALAEZ SERRA, Petitioner, versus U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL, Respondent. ____________________ Petition for Review of a Decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals Agency No. A213-218-830 ____________________ USCA11 Case: 21-10471 Document: 55-1 Date Filed: 02/15/2023 Page: 2 of 22 2 Opinion of the Court 21-10471 Before WILSON, JILL PRYOR, Circuit Judges, and RUIZ, * District Judge. RUIZ, District Judge: For decades, the authoritarian regime in Cuba has utilized its police force to intimidate and physically assault political dissi- dents and peaceful demonstrators throughout the island. 1 Ignacio Balaez Serra, a Cuban immigrant seeking asylum in the United States, maintains he experienced this abuse first-hand after multiple arrests, imprisonments, and beatings by the Cuban police. Serra seeks review of the Board of Immigration Appeals’ (“BIA”) final order affirming the Immigration Judge’s (“IJ”) denial of Serra’s application for asylum, withholding of removal under the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”), and relief under the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel In- humane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (“CAT”) (to- gether, “Application”). The IJ denied Serra’s Application, finding Serra’s testimony “not credible.” In reaching this adverse credibility determination, the IJ cited two inconsistencies between Serra’s hearing testimony and * Honorable Rodolfo A. Ruiz II, United States District Judge for the Southern District of Florida, sitting by designation. 1 See U.S. Department of State, 2021 Country Reports on Human Rights Prac- tices: Cuba (2021), https://www.state.gov/reports/2021-country-reports-on- human-rights-practices/cuba/. USCA11 Case: 21-10471 Document: 55-1 Date Filed: 02/15/2023 Page: 3 of 22 21-10471 Opinion of the Court 3 Application. The first purported inconsistency dealt with the tim- ing of Serra’s passage of a kidney stone; specifically, whether he passed it on the day he was beaten by Cuban police or several days thereafter. The second pertained to the number of countries Serra passed through en route to the United States; he listed ten countries in his written Application but later testified that he traveled through “about 11 or 12.” The IJ also reached his adverse credibil- ity determination based on Serra’s perceived non-responsiveness to certain questions. On appeal, the BIA rejected the IJ’s finding that Serra was non-responsive but affirmed the IJ’s adverse credibility determination based on the two inconsistencies alone. After careful review and with the benefit of oral argument, we conclude the record lacks substantial evidence that would allow us to affirm the adverse credibility determination. We therefore reverse and remand. I. Serra first arrived at the United States border in Presidio, Texas, on November 6, 2019, to seek asylum. Throughout the asy- lum process, Serra had three opportunities to explain his basis for seeking asylum. Serra was initially questioned by an immigration official during a “credible fear interview.” Then, after an officer determined Serra’s fear was credible, he filled out a written Appli- cation for asylum. And once Serra submitted his Application, he testified before an IJ …

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