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  • January 12, 2024

    Seventh Circuit: Cuts and Bruises Not Enough For Asylum Application

    A man who applied for asylum in the U.S. and showed he suffered physical attacks in India, based on his politics, still failed to show he’d be persecuted if he were returned, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has ruled.
    United States Immigration Documents, Including A Certificate of Citizenship And A Fingerprint Card, Laying Artfully Askew

    Jan. 12, 2024 – A man who applied for asylum in the U.S. and showed he suffered physical attacks in India, based on his politics, still failed to show he’d be persecuted if he were returned, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has ruled.

    In Garland v. Singh, No. 23-1192 (Jan. 2, 2024), the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals also held that the man’s claim under an international treaty failed because he didn’t describe any threat of torture.

    Joins Minority Party

    In January 2017, while living in his native India, Kamaljit Singh began supporting an Indian political party known as the Mann Party.

    Jeff M. Brown Jeff M. Brown , Willamette Univ. School of Law 1997, is a legal writer for the State Bar of Wisconsin, Madison. He can be reached by email or by phone at (608) 250-6126.

    The Mann Party is a minority party; its supporters are predominantly Sikh, as is Singh.

    While not a member of the Mann Party, Singh volunteered with the party.

    Pummeled for Hanging Posters

    In May 2017, Singh was hanging up posters for a blood drive sponsored by the Mann Party. A car bearing the logo of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) pulled up.

    Four men got out of the car. When Singh told them he was working for the Mann Party, the men told him he should join the BJP.

    When Singh refused, the men got mad. They closed on Singh, slapping and kicking him. Bystanders broke up the melee.

    Singh later testified that he suffered broken teeth during the attack and received stitches on his lip and his head. However, a report made by the medical clinic he visited after the BJP attack mentions only swelling and bruises.

    Beaten with Hockey Sticks

    In September 2017, Singh was biking home after helping set up for a wedding organized by the Mann Party.

    Again, a car with a BJP logo pulled up. Four men got out and began yelling at Singh about his continued work for the Mann Party.

    The men laid into Singh with hockey sticks. Once again, bystanders broke up the attack.

    As they left, the four men told Singh he must face the consequences of not heeding their advice to join the BJP.

    Singh spent the night in the hospital. Upon leaving the hospital, Singh traveled to an uncle’s home in another state in India.

    From there Singh traveled to New Delhi, the capital, and then fled to the U.S.

    Since Singh left India, police officers and BJP members have several times dropped by his mother’s house to ask where Singh is – and to threaten him.

    Asylum Application Denied

    Upon arriving in the U.S., Singh settled in Wisconsin. There, he applied for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT).

    An immigration judge (IJ) held a hearing and denied Singh’s application. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) affirmed the judge’s decision.

    Singh appealed.

    Probability of Persecution

    Writing for a three-judge panel, Judge Kenneth Ripple began his opinion for the majority by explaining that to win on appeal, Singh must show the following:

    • to be eligible for asylum, “persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion” in India;

    • to be eligible for withholding of removal, a “clear probability of persecution;” and

    • for protection under the CAT, that it was “more likely than not that he … will be tortured” if he were to return to India.

    Role of Credibility

    Ripple also explained that under Seventh Circuit caselaw: 1) the IJ’s adverse credibility determination was central to analyzing Singh’s appeal; and 2) the IJ was entitled to base the determination on the detail, consistency, and plausibility of Singh’s account of his alleged persecution.

    Judge Ripple concluded that the IJ’s adverse credibility finding was justified, given the inconsistencies in Singh’s account of the first attack – his testimony regarding his injuries compared to his written account of the injuries and the report filed by the clinic.

    “The report from the physician who treated [Singh] on the day of the attack do not indicate anything other than swelling and bruises,” Ripple wrote.

    “This missing information is precisely the sort one would expect to see in a written statement and in a physician’s report,” Judge Ripple wrote. “Its absence raised the inference that Mr. Singh exaggerated the seriousness of his injuries.”

    No Abuse or Humiliation

    Ripple concluded that Singh had failed to carry his burden to obtain the relief he sought, regardless of the credibility determination.

    On the asylum and withholding of removal claims, Judge Ripple concluded that there was substantial evidence that whatever ill treatment Singh suffered in India, it was not persecution.

    “Mr. Singh alleges that men slapped, kicked, and hit him, and that he suffered cuts, bruises and some broken teeth, and there is no indication that he suffered further abuse or humiliation,” Ripple wrote.

    Judge Ripple concluded that Singh had waived his claim under the CAT by failing to challenge the IJ’s determination that his CAT claim failed because he didn’t describe any threats of torture.

    Due Process Challenge Fails

    Singh claimed that the proceedings before the IJ violated his due process rights.

    Singh argued that: 1) his lawyer had provided him with ineffective assistance of counsel by allegedly fabricating portions of Singh’s answers on the asylum form and allegedly suggesting that Singh lie during the hearing; and 2) the adverse credibility determination violated his due process rights.

    But Ripple concluded that Singh had failed to exhaust those remedies as required by 8 U.S.C. section 1252(d)(1).

    Judge Ripple pointed out that the BIA had the authority to correct the procedural problems raised by Singh in his due process argument.

    “If the BIA agreed with Mr. Singh that the IJ’s credibility assessment was defective, it could have remanded the case to the IJ for a new hearing,” Ripple wrote.

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    WisBar Court Review, published by the State Bar of Wisconsin, includes summaries and analysis of decisions from the Wisconsin Supreme Court, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, as well as other court developments. To contribute to this blog, contact Joe Forward.

    Disclaimer: Views presented in blog posts are those of the blog post authors, not necessarily those of the Section or the State Bar of Wisconsin. Due to the rapidly changing nature of law and our reliance on information provided by outside sources, the State Bar of Wisconsin makes no warranty or guarantee concerning the accuracy or completeness of this content.

    © 2024 State Bar of Wisconsin, P.O. Box 7158, Madison, WI 53707-7158.

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