May 27, 2009; see amended opinion filed January 11, 2010
On Petition for Review of an Order of the Board of Immigration Appeals Agency No. A027-447-476.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Callahan, Circuit Judge
Argued and Submitted December 10, 2008 -- Seattle, Washington
Before: Robert R. Beezer, Ronald M. Gould and Consuelo M. Callahan, Circuit Judges.
Jorge Filadelfo Robleto-Pastora ("Robleto" or "petitioner"), born June 5, 1960, is a native and citizen of Nicaragua who entered the United States in 1984, was granted asylum, then adjusted status to that of lawful permanent resident (sometimes referred to herein as "LPR") in 1988. Following his 2005 forgery conviction in Oregon state court, petitioner was ordered removed as an aggravated felon pursuant to sections 237(a)(2)(A)(iii) and 101(a)(43)(R) of the Immigration and Nationality Act ("INA"). 8 U.S.C. §§ 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii), 1101(a)(43)(R). He petitions for review of the removal order, and the denial of his motion to reconsider that order. We deny both petitions.
Robleto and several of his family members left Nicaragua in the mid-1980s when the Sandinistas rose to power. In 1986, he and other family members were granted asylum pursuant to section 208 of the INA. See 8 U.S.C. § 1158. On October 2, 1988, he adjusted his status to lawful permanent resident pursuant to section 209(b). 8 U.S.C. § 1159(b).
In October 2004, Robleto was arrested and charged in Oregon state court with forgery-related offenses involving the distribution of false identifications. On July 29, 2005, he pled no contest to six counts of first degree forgery, and was sentenced to thirteen months in prison. He was released from prison after eleven months, and then charged with removability under section 237(a)(2)(A)(iii) of the INA. See 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii).
During the removal proceedings, Robleto sought relief from removal by (1) submitting a new application for asylum, (2) applying for withholding of removal under section 241(b)(3) of the INA and the Convention Against Torture ("CAT"), and (3) seeking to adjust his status under section 209(b) of the INA in connection with a waiver of inadmissibility under section 209(c). 8 U.S.C. § 1159(b)-(c).
On August 23, 2006, an Immigration Judge ("IJ") ruled that Robleto was ineligible to apply for adjustment of status under section 209(b) because that section was available only to asylees, and not lawful permanent residents such as Robleto.
Following several continuances, Robleto appeared before an IJ on December 5, 2006. He testified that his father and brother were employees in the Somoza government, and that he worked as a mechanic in the government's "General Customs" division. All three of them lost their jobs when the Sandinistas took control of the government. Robleto testified that he was unable to find gainful employment after he was fired, but admitted that he did not look for work in the private sector.
Other than losing his job, Robleto did not allege that he suffered actual persecution by the Sandinistas. Robleto's mother testified generally that the Sandinistas harassed the entire family due to their association with the Somoza government, but she failed to identify any specific persecution suffered by Robleto. Robleto's brother, Sergio, however, was detained by the Sandinistas for several hours in 1981 based on suspicions that he was involved with a school bombing. Another brother, Alvaro, was also detained by the Sandinistas in 1982, and was beaten and tortured. Robleto further testified that he is related to Eden Pastora, a famous anti-Sandinista leader.
Noting the 2006 re-election of Sandinista leader, Daniel Ortega, Robleto testified that he feared returning to Nicaragua. He alleged that the government would think he was an American spy, but cited no basis for this fear. He also failed to produce evidence that the current democratically-elected administration was persecuting former Somoza-government employees or members of Robleto's family. In fact, he testified that several aunts and uncles from both sides of his family, and at least one grandparent, still live in Nicaragua, and his mother testified that she and her husband had gone back to visit since leaving in the 1980s.
Citing, among other things, Robleto's aggravated felony, the IJ denied Robleto's application for asylum.*fn1 The IJ also denied his application for withholding based on his failure to establish past persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution, and ordered him removed to Nicaragua.
On March 27, 2007, the BIA dismissed Robleto's appeal from the IJ's decision finding him removable as charged and denying his applications for relief. The BIA held that the IJ properly pretermitted Robleto's new asylum application based on his aggravated felony conviction, and concluded that Robleto failed to establish that he was entitled to withholding of removal. The BIA rejected Robleto's contentions that he retained the status of an asylee, and that such status entitled him to a presumption of a well-founded fear of persecution. Noting that his original asylum application contained no allegation of past persecution, the BIA held that a prior grant of asylum was insufficient to establish the presumption. The BIA noted that Robleto presented no evidence that he would be of any interest to the current administration, or that it ...