Rishard Ibrahim v. Eric Holder, Jr.
OPINION filed : AFFIRMED, decision not for publication. Karen Nelson Moore, Circuit Judge; Julia Smith Gibbons, Circuit Judge and Jeffrey S. Sutton, Circuit Judge (Authoring).
NOT RECOMMENDED FOR FULL-TEXT PUBLICATION
File Name: 13a0973n.06
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT
ERIC H. HOLDER, JR., Attorney General of
the United States,
Nov 13, 2013
DEBORAH S. HUNT, Clerk
ON PETITION FOR REVIEW OF A
FINAL ORDER OF THE BOARD OF
Before: MOORE, GIBBONS and SUTTON, Circuit Judges.
SUTTON, Circuit Judge. Rishard Ibrahim, a native and citizen of Sri Lanka, seeks review
of an order of the Board of Immigration Appeals rejecting several requests for relief. For the
reasons that follow, we deny the petition for review.
Ibrahim first encountered the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, a Sri Lankan separatist
group known informally as the Tamil Tigers, during high school. He led his school’s cadet corps,
a youth military training program sponsored by the Sri Lankan government. The Tamil Tigers
disapproved of the program, and Ibrahim transferred schools in 1979 because he feared retaliation.
But the Tamil Tigers had a presence at Ibrahim’s new school too, one he opposed (among other
ways) by attending school when the group ordered boycotts to protest the government. Ibrahim
Ibrahim v. Holder
received threats due to his opposition and dropped out of school in 1980 because he “could not
concentrate on [his] studies.” AR at 255. For the next five years, Ibrahim lived in fear of the Tamil
Tigers’ forceful recruitment of young people. Notwithstanding this fear, he and others organized
a protest in 1985. The Tamil Tigers fired into the crowd of protestors, killing two of Ibrahim’s
That is when Ibrahim left his hometown of Akkaraipattu on the eastern coast of Sri Lanka
for Colombo, a large city on the western coast. He lived there safely for two years but returned to
Akkaraipattu in 1987 to help run the family farm. Once there, he joined the Muslim Congress, a
group that opposed the Tamil Tigers. In 1990, Ibrahim and a group of Muslim Congress members
stood and talked outside the home of Ali Uthuman, a Muslim Congress member who sat on the
Provincial Council. A gunman arrived and shot Uthuman. Ibrahim recognized the gunman as
Ilango, a former classmate turned Tamil Tiger. As Ibrahim tried to help Uthuman, Ilango hit him
on the shoulder with the butt of his gun and ran away. The blow dislocated Ibrahim’s shoulder, and
he spent a few days in the hospital recovering.
In 1992, Ibrahim returned again to Colombo. But in May of that year, as he and a friend
walked along a crowded sidewalk, someone pushed him into the street. Just then, a motorcycle sped
by. Ibrahim’s friend told Ibrahim that he recognized the person who pushed Ibrahim as a friend of
Ilango. Unharmed but rattled, Ibrahim left Sri Lanka and illegally entered the United States.
When the Department of Homeland Security initiated removal proceedings against Ibrahim,
Ibrahim v. Holder
he applied for asylum, withholding of removal and relief under the Convention Against Torture.
The Immigration Judge denied Ibrahim’s applications for relief, discounting his credibility and
finding that his experiences in Sri Lanka did not rise to the level of past persecution. The judge also
found that conditions in Sri Lanka had stabilized since Ibrahim left the country due to the Sri Lankan
government’s defeat of the Tamil Tigers, meaning Ibrahim had not shown a well-founded fear of
The Board rejected Ibrahim’s appeal. It agreed with the judge’s credibility determination.
Even assuming Ibrahim’s credibility, it alternatively found that he had “not establish[ed] past
persecution or a well-founded fear of future persecution.” Id. at 5.
To obtain asylum, Ibrahim must show that he cannot return to Sri Lanka “because of
persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of” his religion (Islam), membership
in a particular social group (Muslim Tamils) or political opinion (membership in the Muslim
8 U.S.C. §§ 1101(a)(42)(A), 1158(b)(1)(A).
Because the Board adopted the
Immigration Judge’s decision and added reasons of its own, we review the judge’s decision along
with the Board’s additional comments. See Gilaj v. Gonzales, 408 F.3d 275, 283 (6th Cir. 2005).
Their factual findings stand so long as they are supported by substantial evidence, so long in other
words as the evidence does not “compel” a contrary conclusion. INS v. Elias-Zacarias, 502 U.S.
478, 481 n.1 (1992) (emphasis omitted); see also 8 U.S.C. § 1252(b)(4)(B).
Ibrahim v. Holder
Even if we accept Ibrahim’s credibility for the purposes of this appeal, substantial evidence
supports the findings that he proved neither past persecution nor a well-founded fear of future
persecution upon return to Sri Lanka. Start with past persecution. The immigration laws require
Ibrahim to show that he “was specifically targeted” and not merely the victim of “indiscriminate
abuse” to establish past persecution. Gilaj, 408 F.3d at 285. He also must show that these events
“go beyond what might reasonably be characterized as mere harassment.” Id.
In trying to meet this standard, Ibrahim points to the shootings at the 1985 protest, his
shoulder injury in 1990 and the motorcycle incident in 1992. The 1985 shootings did not target
Ibrahim and thus do not establish persecution. He testified that the shooters “opened fire” on the
protestors and “chased” them as they ran away. AR at 142. As Ibrahim and two friends jumped
over a fence to escape, his friends were shot. Ibrahim cut himself on the fence but otherwise
escaped unharmed. This kind of “violence employed against a crowd of demonstrators” by
definition does not establish targeted persecution. Gilaj, 408 F.3d at 285. The record supports the
Immigration Judge’s conclusion that “it does not appear that [Ibrahim] was targeted specifically.”
AR at 39.
Nor does Ibrahim’s dislocated shoulder establish persecution. In the absence of a statutory
definition of persecution, our cases define the term “mostly by identifying what does not count.”
Japarkulova v. Holder, 615 F.3d 696, 699 (6th Cir. 2010) (emphasis in original). Though
unfortunate and surely painful, “a single beating does not compel a finding of persecution.” Gilaj,
408 F.3d at 284 (quotation omitted). We have held that similar, indeed more extreme, acts of
Ibrahim v. Holder
violence do not establish past persecution. See Shkreli v. Gonzales, 219 F. App’x 474, 479 (6th Cir.
2007) (finding no persecution where attackers beat applicant, dislocated his arm and stole his car);
see also Lumaj v. Gonzales, 462 F.3d 574, 577 (6th Cir. 2006) (same where men attacked the
applicant, beat her, forced her into a car and attempted to kidnap her). In view of these precedents,
the record does not compel a finding of past persecution based on this incident.
The same goes for the events in Colombo in 1992. Ibrahim’s testimony supports one of two
conclusions. Either someone happened to push Ibrahim into the street as a motorcycle sped by (not
persecution) or the Tamil Tigers tried and failed to kill Ibrahim (likely persecution). To reach the
second conclusion, one must agree with Ibrahim that: (1) the motorcycle rider was likely a member
of the Tamil Tigers because the group owned motorcycles similar to the one that almost hit him; (2)
the man who pushed him, whom Ibrahim’s friend identified as a friend of a Tamil Tiger, also
belonged to the group; and (3) those two decided the best plan of attack involved pushing Ibrahim
in front of the motorcycle, risking the rider’s life in the process. This second conclusion, the only
one that could help Ibrahim, “requires several inferential leaps that strain the boundaries of
circumstantial evidence.” Pablo-Sanchez v. Holder, 600 F.3d 592, 595 (6th Cir. 2010). The record
did not require the Immigration Judge or the Board to take those leaps. Id. Nor do these events,
each insufficient to establish persecution standing alone, require a finding of persecution when
In the absence of a presumption of future persecution that follows a finding of past
persecution, see 8 C.F.R. § 1208.13(b)(1), Ibrahim must establish a well-founded fear of future
Ibrahim v. Holder
persecution. This requires an objectively reasonable fear of the possibility of persecution upon his
return to Sri Lanka. See Dieng v. Holder, 698 F.3d 866, 872 (6th Cir. 2012). Here too he has not
met his burden.
Ibrahim relies mainly on evidence that “problems . . . still exist in the country.” App. Br. at
26. Yet persecution, whether past or future, requires harm aimed at the applicant. For that reason,
evidence of general unrest—a risk shared by all citizens—does not support a reasonable fear of
future persecution. See Almuhtaseb v. Gonzales, 453 F.3d 743, 750 (6th Cir. 2006).
When Ibrahim claims a fear of individualized persecution, he does so in general terms and
without supporting evidence. A reasonable fear of future persecution requires more than “mere
assertions of fear of possible persecution or speculative conclusions,” namely “specific information
showing a real threat.” Dieng, 698 F.3d at 872. Ibrahim explains that he “fears those that were after
him” before he left and that he “would likely face problems” if he returned. App. Br. at 26. But the
Sri Lankan government defeated the group he fears—the Tamil Tigers—in 2009. Ibrahim adds that
someone will recognize him when he lands at the airport, but he offered no evidence that the nowdefeated Tamil Tigers monitor the airports. Nor did he explain how they would recognize him after
over two decades. Ibrahim’s “speculative conclusions” do not suffice to convert his subjective fears
into objectively reasonable fears. Dieng, 698 F.3d at 872.
Even if Ibrahim had established a well-founded fear of persecution in his hometown of
Akkaraipattu, he could avoid persecution by living in southern Sri Lanka. An individual who can
Ibrahim v. Holder
avoid persecution by relocating to another area of the country does not have a well-founded fear of
future persecution. See 8 C.F.R. § 1208.13(b)(2)(ii). Ibrahim testified that conditions in southern
Sri Lanka are “okay,” a conclusion his own evidence supports. Id. at 42, 209–10, 307. Despite
Ibrahim’s conclusory statement that he cannot “safely and reasonably relocate within Sri Lanka,”
App. Br. at 26, substantial evidence supports the Immigration Judge’s finding that he could avoid
future persecution by moving to southern Sri Lanka.
Ibrahim also applied for withholding of removal and relief under the Convention Against
Torture. Because Ibrahim did not establish that he is eligible for asylum, he necessarily does not
meet the stricter requirements for withholding of removal. See 8 C.F.R. § 208.16(b). And Ibrahim
has not shown that he will likely be tortured upon his return to Sri Lanka, id. § 208.16(c)(2), making
him ineligible for relief under the Convention as well.
For these reasons, we affirm.
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?