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Sanjaa v. Sessions

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

July 21, 2017

Amartsengel Sanjaa, Petitioner,
v.
Jefferson B. Sessions III, Attorney General, Respondent.

          Argued and Submitted May 12, 2017 Seattle, Washington

         On Petition for Review of an Order of the Board of Immigration Appeals Agency No A200-684-960

          Nicholas W. Marchi (argued), Carney & Marchi P.S., Seattle, Washington, for Petitioner.

          Andrew B. Insenga (argued), Trial Attorney; Paul Fiorino, Senior Litigation Counsel; Office of Immigration Litigation, Civil Division, United States Department of Justice, Washington, D.C.; for Respondent.

          Before: M. Margaret McKeown, Carlos T. Bea, and N. Randy Smith, Circuit Judges.

         SUMMARY[*]

         Immigration

         The panel denied a petition for review of the Board of Immigration Appeals' denial of withholding of removal and protection under the Convention Against Torture to a citizen of Mongolia.

         The panel held that substantial evidence supported the Board's determination that Sanjaa was targeted because of his role in a drug-trafficking investigation, and not on account of his political opinion, his purported whistleblowing activity, or his status as a former police officer.

         The panel held that the witness protection provisions of Article 24 of the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime ("UN-CATOC") do not provide an independent basis for relief from removal, because UN-CATOC is not self-executing, and has not been implemented through congressional legislation.

          OPINION

          BEA, Circuit Judge.

         Amartsengel Sanjaa, a native and citizen of Mongolia, served as a police officer in his home country. When he began to investigate a drug-trafficking operation that involved Lkhagvasuren, a famous Mongolian singer, and Naranbaatar, the son of a parliamentarian, Sanjaa was beaten and threatened several times by unidentified individuals. The individuals told Sanjaa that they knew he was a police officer and demanded that he stop the drug-trafficking investigation and destroy any evidence from the investigation. Although the drug-trafficking investigation eventually led to the arrest and trial of Lkhagvasuren and Naranbaatar, Sanjaa no longer felt safe in Mongolia. In January 2006, he entered the United States on an F-1 student visa.

         Sanjaa remained in the United States without authorization after his student status ended in February 2008. The Department of Homeland Security issued him a Notice to Appear in May 2010. Sanjaa conceded removability, but applied for asylum, withholding of removal, and Convention Against Torture ("CAT") relief. The Immigration Judge ("IJ") found Sanjaa's testimony credible, but denied all forms of relief. The Board of Immigration Appeals ("BIA") affirmed the IJ's decision and dismissed Sanjaa's appeal. Sanjaa conceded his ineligibility for asylum because he filed his application after the one-year deadline imposed by the REAL ID Act. See 8 U.S.C. § 1158(a)(2)(B). The BIA denied Sanjaa's withholding of removal claim because Sanjaa's persecution resulted not from his political opinion or membership in a particular social group, but from his role in the drug-trafficking investigation. The BIA denied Sanjaa's application for CAT relief because Sanjaa failed to establish that it was more likely than not that, if returned to Mongolia, Sanjaa would be tortured by or with the acquiescence of the Mongolian government. Sanjaa has never been tortured by government officials, and the police investigated every incident of harassment and violence reported by Sanjaa.

         The BIA also addressed Sanjaa's argument that he was entitled to relief from removal under the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime ("UN-CATOC").[1] The UN-CATOC is a treaty signed and ratified by the United States that aims, in relevant part, to protect witnesses of transnational organized crime from retaliation and intimidation. The BIA concluded that ...


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