Agustin Pantoja-Medrano v. Eric Holder, Jr., 4th Cir. (2013)

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Filed: 2013-04-05 Precedential Status: Non-Precedential Docket: 11-2167
  UNPUBLISHED  UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT  No. 11-2167  AGUSTIN PANTOJA-MEDRANO, a/k/a Agustin Pantoja, a/k/a Agustin Pantoja Medrano, a/k/a Augustin Pantoja Medrano, Petitioner, v. ERIC H. HOLDER, JR., Attorney General, Respondent. On Petition for Review of an Order of the Board of Immigration Appeals. Argued: March 19, 2013 Decided: April 5, 2013 Before MOTZ, KING, and AGEE, Circuit Judges. Petition for review denied by unpublished per curiamopinion.  ARGUED:  Parker Joseph Clote, JOHNSON & ASSOCIATES, PC, Arlington, Virginia, for Petitioner. Holly Smith, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Respondent. ON BRIEF:  Randall L. Johnson, JOHNSON & ASSOCIATES, PC, Arlington, Virginia, for Petitioner. Stuart Delery, Acting Assistant Attorney General, Civil Division, Blair T. O'Connor, Assistant Director, Edward C. Durant, Trial Attorney, Office of Immigration Litigation, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Respondent. Unpublished opinions are not binding precedent in this circuit.  2 PER CURIAM: Agustin Pantoja-Medrano, a citizen of Mexico, petitions for review of a final order of removal entered by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). The Immigration Judge (IJ) found that Pantoja-Medrano established a likelihood of persecution on account of his membership in a particular social group consisting of imputed government informants and granted himwithholding of removal. The BIA vacated, concluding that Pantoja-Medrano’s proposed group failed to qualify as a particular social group within the meaning of the Immigration and Nationality Act. For the reasons that follow, we deny Pantoja-Medrano’s petition for review. I. Pantoja-Medrano, born in Mexico, entered the United States in 2001 as a lawful permanent resident. In March 2006, he was convicted of possession of cocaine and sentenced to five years with his sentence suspended. In December 2010, the Department of Homeland Security issued Pantoja-Medrano a notice to appear, alleging he was removable pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(2)(B)(i) because of his conviction of a controlled substance offense after admission to the United States. Pantoja-Medrano conceded removability but applied for asylumor withholding of removal, claiming he feared returning  3 to Mexico because of threats on his life fromdrug traffickers who blamed himfor their arrest and removal fromthe United States. The IJ credited Pantoja-Medrano’s testimony as to the following facts. In 2006, Pantoja-Medrano briefly lived in a house with three individuals with whomhe worked at the time: Roberto Estrada, Fernando Romero, and Jesus Garcia. While Pantoja-Medrano was living in the house, federal authorities executed a search in response to suspected drug activity. They took custody of all of the house’s occupants except Pantoja-Medrano. About four months later, Pantoja-Medrano visited Estrada in prison at Estrada’s request. Estrada told Pantoja-Medrano he believed Pantoja-Medrano was responsible for the raid. After being deported to Mexico, Estrada called Pantoja-Medrano and threatened to kill him, and has repeatedly contacted Pantoja-Medrano’s sister saying he plans to kill Pantoja-Medrano. Pantoja-Medrano also heard that Romero had re-entered the United States and wanted to kill him.  The IJ found that Pantoja-Medrano established his membership in a particular social group consisting of “individuals who had the characteristics imputed to themof being an informant informing against individuals who had the strong likelihood of being involved in the drug trade and drug trafficking out of Mexico in the United States.” Further, the  4 IJ found it more likely than not that Pantoja-Medrano would be subject to persecution based on his membership in that group should he return to Mexico. The IJ denied Pantoja-Medrano’s request for asylumas a matter of discretion based on the gravity of his drug offense but granted his request for withholding of removal.  The Government appealed the IJ’s decision to the BIA, arguing that Pantoja-Medrano did not show he was a member of a particular social group. *  The BIA sustained the Government’s appeal and ordered Pantoja-Medrano removed. II.  To qualify for withholding of removal, an applicant must show it is more likely than not that his “life or freedomwould be threatened” in the proposed country of removal on account of “race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.” 8 U.S.C. § 1231(b)(3)(A), 8 C.F.R. § 208.16(b). We must uphold the BIA’s conclusion that Pantoja-Medrano is ineligible for withholding of removal unless it is “manifestly contrary to law.” 8 U.S.C. § 1252(b)(4)(C). In making this determination, we review the BIA’s legal *  The Government also challenged the IJ’s decision on other grounds, but the BIA did not address those arguments and we need not do so.
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