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Isidro Perez-Ramirez v. Eric H. Holder Jr

July 8, 2011

ISIDRO PEREZ-RAMIREZ, PETITIONER,
v.
ERIC H. HOLDER JR., ATTORNEY GENERAL,
RESPONDENT.



On Petition for Review of an Order of the Board of Immigration Appeals Agency No. A076-679-915

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hug, Senior Circuit Judge:

FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

Argued and Submitted January 12, 2011-San Francisco, California

Before: Procter Hug, Jr., Mary M. Schroeder, and Johnnie B. Rawlinson, Circuit Judges.

Opinion by Judge Hug

OPINION

Isidro Perez-Ramirez ("petitioner"), a native and citizen of Mexico, petitions for review of the Board of Immigration Appeals' ("BIA") decision dismissing his appeal from an immigration judge's ("IJ") decision denying his application for asylum, withholding of removal, and relief under the Convention Against Torture ("CAT"). Petitioner argues on appeal that he acted as a whistleblower against government corruption and that the BIA erred in denying his claims for asylum, withholding of removal, and relief under the Convention Against Torture ("CAT"). We have jurisdiction under 8 U.S.C. § 1252. We hold that petitioner qualifies as a whistle-blower. Thus, we grant the petition for review, reverse the BIA, and remand the case accordingly.

I. Background

Petitioner worked as a purchasing analyst for PROTINBOS, an agency of the State of Mexico that developed forested areas. In 1986, petitioner noticed certain major accounting irregularities at work. Petitioner discovered that fictitious names of employees who did not exist had been listed on an employment register. He discovered that fraudulent claims had been submitted for payment of overtime hours and that employees had made fraudulent requests for gas reimbursements and car repairs. He related this information to his supervisor, Rosa Martinez, and she told him to cure the problems. In January or February 1987, petitioner overhauled the accounting process and implemented certain reforms, such as personally distributing paychecks and going to the agency's greenhouses.

In February 1987, while petitioner was traveling on a rural highway, he was stopped by men blocking the road. The men told petitioner that a high-ranking government official said that he should give the payroll records to the managers of the greenhouses and that he should not pay employees directly. After this incident, from February through May 1987, petitioner was threatened twice and physically attacked five times. On one occasion, petitioner was traveling and a tree blocked the road. Petitioner exited the vehicle and was hit on the back of his neck and kicked after he fell to the ground. The attackers threatened to kill him if he did not stop implementing the reforms. Petitioner reported the attacks to his supervisor, but the attacks continued until he stopped traveling to the greenhouses and was promoted to manager of general services in May 1987.

As manager, petitioner discovered more accounting irregularities, such as missing funds, and reported the problems to his supervisor. Several months later, in January 1988, petitioner changed positions and became manager of purchasing and general services. In this position, petitioner reported to his old supervisor, Ms. Martinez, and a new supervisor, David Moreno. Mr. Moreno began pressuring petitioner to engage in corrupt business acts. He told petitioner that he had to make purchases from distributors that Mr. Moreno selected and conduct business deals with vendors who would share a percentage of the sales. Petitioner refused to comply. Mr. Moreno attempted to sabotage purchasing deals and petitioner was subjected to severe abuse and harassment. He was arrested eight times by the police who told him that he needed to comply with Mr. Moreno's requests if he wanted to stay alive. During some of these detentions, petitioner was tortured: the police officers tied him to a board and put his head in water on one occasion; on another occasion, the officers forced chiles and mineral water into his nose.

After enduring such abuse, petitioner told Mr. Moreno he wanted to resign. Mr. Moreno, however, told petitioner that he owed a debt of 600 million pesos which had to be paid before he could leave the agency. Mr. Moreno could not tell petitioner how the debt came into existence. While trying to secure records to rectify the debt, petitioner was ordered to join the Institutional Revolutionary Party ("PRI") and transport employees for a political rally. Petitioner refused to join the PRI. Finally, petitioner managed to secure records showing that he did not owe any debt and left PROTINBOS in June 1989.

On October 12, 1989, a fire erupted at a PROTINBOS warehouse which destroyed records of the goods that had gone missing during petitioner's tenure at PROTINBOS. The insurance company investigating the fire arranged to interview petitioner. Before the interview could occur, the state police kidnaped petitioner at gunpoint, beat him, and held him hostage for a weekend. For the duration of the weekend, a canvas bag was placed over petitioner's head and he was not allowed to go to the bathroom or eat. On the first night, they tied him up and left him hanging. His captors told him that they were going to kill him if he didn't keep his mouth shut ...


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