Aleksander Vasili, et al v. Eric Holder, Jr.
OPINION filed : AFFIRMED, decision not for publication pursuant to local rule 206. Karen Nelson Moore, Circuit Judge; Raymond M. Kethledge, Circuit Judge and Algenon L. Marbley, Authoring U.S. District Judge, SD/OH.
NOT RECOMMENDED FOR FULL-TEXT PUBLICATION
File Name: 11a0718n.06
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT
ALEKSANDER VASILI and MARTHA
ERIC HOLDER, JR., Attorney General,
Oct 18, 2011
LEONARD GREEN, Clerk
) ON PETITION FOR REVIEW OF AN
) ORDER OF THE BOARD OF
) IMMIGRATION APPEALS
Before: MOORE and KETHLEDGE, Circuit Judges; and MARBLEY, District Judge.*
ALGENON L. MARBLEY, District Judge. Petitioners Aleksander and Martha Vasili seek
a review of a final order of removal entered against them by the Board of Immigration Appeals
(“BIA”) on February 26, 2010. The BIA concluded that Petitioners had failed to produce reasonably
available corroborating evidence to establish their claim, to prove that the harm they suffered
constituted persecution, or to prove that there was a causal nexus between the harm and a protected
characteristic under 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(42). Petitioners contend that the BIA’s determination that
Petitioners did not present adequate evidence to sustain their appeal was erroneous because the BIA
ignored relevant evidence. Because Petitioners have failed to produce any evidence compelling
reversal, we affirm the BIA’s decision.
The Honorable Algenon L. Marbley, United States District Judge for the Southern
District of Ohio, sitting by designation.
I. BACKGROUND & PROCEDURAL HISTORY
A. Procedural History
Petitioner Aleksander Vasili is a citizen of the Republic of Albania and an Albanian national.
He came to the United States on July 5, 2005, on a non-immigrant visa that authorized him to remain
in the country until August 4, 2005. He applied for asylum on June 30, 2006.1 On November 29,
2006, the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) issued a Notice to Appear on January 17,
2007, to show why Petitioner should not be removed under 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(1)(B). Petitioner
conceded his removability as charged, and moved before the Immigration Judge (“IJ”) that his
application for asylum under Section 208(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act be deemed a
request for withholding of removal under Section 241(b)(3) of the Act. The IJ conducted a hearing
and, on May 2, 2008, denied Petitioner’s application for asylum and withholding of removal.
Petitioner appealed the IJ’s decision to the BIA by filing a Notice of Appeal on May 30,
2008. The BIA dismissed Petitioner’s appeal on February 26, 2010. Petitioner then filed the appeal
now before the Court.
B. Petitioner’s Claim
Petitioner was born on August 22, 1976 in Delvina, a small city in Albania, but is an ethnic
Greek. He alleges that anti-Greek sentiment in Albania manifested in several incidents of persecution
of Petitioner and his family and that he feared similar persecution were he to return to Albania.
Petitioner claimed to have been personally persecuted in a number of ways. He and other
Greeks were harassed while serving in the Albanian Army, his store was burglarized and vandalized,
his house was fired upon by automatic weapons, he was assaulted while at a religious service of the
Ms. Vasili is a derivative beneficiary of Mr. Vasili’s petition for asylum. References to
“Petitioner” shall hereinafter be deemed references to Mr. Vasili.
Greek Orthodox Church, his life was threatened while working on the political campaign of a Greek
candidate, he was arrested and questioned about his activities during the period when he lived in
Greece, and he was severely beaten. These events took place between 1996 and 2002.
In January of 2003, Petitioner moved to Greece but maintained a residence in Delvina. In
2004, Petitioner claims that his house in Albania was ransacked and, while reorganizing his house,
he was beaten by a group of three people. Back in Greece, Petitioner received threats on his life.
After Petitioner moved to the United States in 2005, he returned to Greece for a long vacation.
While there, his car was vandalized and his property stolen. He was also the victim of another
Petitioner claimed that members of his family were persecuted, as well, including the arrest
of his sister for teaching Greek language classes, the firing of his brother from his position at a bank,
the firing of his sister from her position at City Hall, and the illegal reclamation of family-owned
Finally, Petitioner supported his claim for asylum with evidence of general anti-Greek
actions. He recalled that a series of attacks against Greeks in 1992 began when a group of Albanian
adults beat Greek children and young adults in the central square of Delvina. The beating was
prompted by the foundation of OMONIA, a Greek-rights advocacy organization headed by
Petitioner’s brother. Petitioner additionally provided references to several neutral accounts of antiGreek discrimination in Albania, the most recent of which dated from 2005.
C. The IJ’s Decision
The IJ rejected Petitioner’s claim that he would be persecuted based on his religion (Greek
Orthodox), nationality (Greek), and membership in a particular social group (Greek Orthodox
people) if he were returned to Albania. The IJ acknowledged that Petitioner’s testimony was largely
consistent with his application for asylum, but concluded that the evidence overall lacked credibility
because it lacked corroboration. In particular, the fact that the events Petitioner described were of
the type readily corroborated by documentary evidence weighed heavily in the IJ’s conclusion. The
IJ reasoned, moreover, that Petitioner had not proven that many of the incidents of persecution he
described were in fact caused by his Greek heritage. Finally, the IJ found that the neutral materials
documenting anti-Greek sentiment in Albania were out of date and outweighed by the more recent
submissions from the Government.
On the basis of those findings, the IJ ruled as follows: (1) that Petitioner had not carried his
burden of corroborating central facts; (2) that he had not shown a well-founded fear that he would
be persecuted on the basis of his ethnicity if he returned to Albania; (3) that he had not carried his
burden of proving that he had been persecuted in the past on the basis of his ethnicity; and (4) that
he had not established a clear probability that he would be persecuted if he returned to Albania.
D. The BIA’s Decision
The BIA considered whether the IJ erred in finding that Petitioner lacked credibility, that he
had not established past persecution, and that he had not established a well-founded fear or a clear
probability of future persecution.2 The BIA concluded that the IJ was supported in finding that
Petitioner had not met his burden of proof or met his obligation to produce reasonably available
corroborating evidence. The BIA additionally held that Petitioner failed to prove that the harm he
suffered rose to the level of persecution or that the harm was caused by an impermissible act. As for
Petitioner raised other contentions of error before the BIA that he does not renew before
the claim of future persecution, the BIA held that Petitioner’s allegations regarding future
persecution were undermined by his voluntary visits to Albania.
We have jurisdiction over this petition for review of the Board of Immigration Appeals’
decision under 8 U.S.C. § 1252(a).
III. STANDARD OF REVIEW
Where the BIA adopts the IJ’s decision but adds its own reasoning or findings, we directly
review both the BIA and the IJ’s decisions “to determine whether the decision of the BIA should be
upheld on appeal.” Gilaj v. Gonzales, 408 F.3d 275, 282–83 (6th Cir. 2005) (per curiam). We must
affirm findings of fact if they are “supported by reasonable, substantial, and probative evidence on
the record considered as a whole.” Sarr v. Gonzales, 485 F.3d 354, 359 (6th Cir. 2007) (quotations
omitted). Unless “the evidence not only supports [reversal] but compels it,” we may not overturn the
BIA’s decision. INS v. Elias-Zacarias, 502 U.S. 478, 481 n.1 (1992); see also Sarr, 485 F.3d at 359.
Petitioner’s central argument is that the BIA and the IJ ignored corroborating evidence and
his credible explanations for the lack of such evidence. Credibility determinations are “considered
a finding of fact and [are] thus reviewed under the deferential substantial-evidence standard.” Sarr,
485 F.3d at 360. Likewise, an IJ’s findings regarding the availability of corroborating evidence may
not be reversed “unless the court finds . . . that a reasonable trier of fact is compelled to conclude that
such corroborating evidence is unavailable.” 8 U.S.C. § 1252(b)(4); REAL ID Act of 2005, § 101,
Pub. L. No. 109–13, 119 Stat. 231, 305 (2005).
In order to be granted asylum, a petitioner has to demonstrate that he was a “refugee,” 8
C.F.R. § 1208.13(a), defined as a person unable to return to his country “because of persecution or
a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a
particular social group, or political opinion,” 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(42)(A). The persecution must be
on one of several statutorily enumerated grounds. 8 C.F.R. § 1208.13(b)(1). The petitioner bears the
burden of establishing the causal nexus between the persecution, past or future, and a protected
characteristic. See 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(42)(A); 8 C.F.R. § 1208.13; Elias-Zacarias, 502 U.S. at 478,
482–83. To show a well-founded fear of future persecution, a petitioner must prove that he would
be singled out personally for persecution or that he had a reasonable fear of persecution because of
his membership in a group subject to a “pattern or practice” of persecution.
§ 1208.13(b)(2)(I), (iii)(A). A fear may be well-founded even if there is “less than a 50% chance of
the occurrence taking place.” I.N.S. v. Cardoza-Fonseca, 480 U.S. 421, 431 (1987).
The evidence that the Petitioner claims the IJ ignored does not compel reversal of the
conclusion that the Petitioner had failed to carry his burden of showing past persecution. The IJ did
in fact consider the affidavit from Petitioner’s brother, contrary to the Petitioner’s assertion. As for
the certificate from the Mayor of Delvina, although it corroborates Petitioner’s claims that his store
was looted twice, it does not support Petitioner’s claim that the looting occurred because of his
ethnicity: the certificate places the blame instead on “dark non democratic forces.” Likewise, the
certificate from the President of the Delvina Branch attests that the Petitioner was “persecuted and
harassed by different Albanian nationalists . . . because [he] supported the rights of the Hellenic
minority.” This corroborates Petitioner’s general claim that his persecution was on the basis of his
politics but gives no specific support to any of the incidents Petitioner attempted to prove. Finally,
the IJ did consider the news articles that Petitioner claims the IJ overlooked, finding that all of them
were “relatively out of date.” In sum, all of the evidence that the Petitioner argues the IJ failed to
consider was either addressed by the IJ or is insufficiently probative to compel a finding that
Petitioner was entitled to asylum.
Nor can we conclude that the evidence compels reversal of the conclusion that the Petitioner
had not proven a well-founded fear of future persecution. See 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(42)(A); 8 C.F.R.
§ 1208.13(b)(2)(I), (iii). The Petitioner and his wife testified that he voluntarily returned to Albania
two times since 1993, once to check on his family property and once to marry. The Petitioner’s wife
also testified that she returned once to Albania to have her passport renewed. As the BIA noted, such
returns undermine the Petitioner’s claim of a well-founded fear of future persecution. See Loho v.
Mukasey, 531 F.3d 1016, 1017–18 (9th Cir. 2008) (“It is well established in this court that an alien’s
history of willingly returning to his or her home country militates against a finding of past
persecution or a well-founded fear of future persecution.”); Bleta v. Gonzales, 174 F. App’x 287, 292
(6th Cir. 2006) (concluding fact that petitioner for asylum “left and returned to Albania at least three
times during the period of alleged persecution” supported BIA’s adverse credibility determination);
Ngarurih v. Ashcroft, 371 F.3d 182, 189 (4th Cir. 2004) (holding that substantial evidence supported
BIA’s denial of asylum where petitioner’s return to his home country showed that he was not “a
person unable or unwilling to return to his home country due to a well-founded fear of persecution).
Thus the Petitioner has not presented any evidence or law to compel a reversal of the BIA’s
determination, and we must affirm.
Because the BIA’s entrance of a final order of removal was supported by substantial
evidence, we AFFIRM.
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