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Lim Go v. Holder

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

March 7, 2014

RODERICK LIM GO, Petitioner,
v.
ERIC H. HOLDER, JR., Attorney General, Respondent

Argued and Submitted, San Francisco, California: January 15, 2014.

On Petition for Review of an Order of the Board of Immigration Appeals. Agency No. A095-617-600.

Stacy Tolchin (argued), Law Offices of Stacy Tolchin, Los Angeles, California, for Petitioner.

Stuart F. Delery, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General; Blair T. O'Connor, Assistant Director; Don G. Scroggin, and Matthew B. George (argued), Trial Attorneys, United States Department of Justice, Office of Immigration Litigation, Washington, D.C., for Respondent.

Before: J. Clifford Wallace and Susan P. Graber, Circuit Judges, and Richard Mills, Senior District Judge.[*]. Opinion by Judge Wallace; Special Concurrence by Judge Wallace.

OPINION

Page 605

WALLACE, Senior Circuit Judge:

Roderick Lim Go petitions us to review the Board of Immigration Appeals' (Board) denial of his motion to reopen under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). Go contends that the Board erroneously applied 8 C.F.R. § 1003.2(c), the regulation governing motions to reopen, even though this regulation " makes no reference" to the CAT. Go also contends that the Board abused its discretion in concluding that certain " new evidence" presented in his motion to reopen was not material.

Page 606

We have jurisdiction under 8 U.S.C. § 1252(a), and we deny the petition. In a separately filed unpublished disposition, we address the petition of Grace Tan Go, which presents the same arguments as are presented here.

I.

In a previous proceeding, Go applied for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the CAT. After the Board denied those claims, we denied Go's petition for review in a published opinion. See Go v. Holder, 640 F.3d 1047 (9th Cir. 2011). Here, we briefly recapitulate the background of this case, insofar as it is pertinent to the present appeal.

As we explained in our prior opinion, Go's application for asylum and other forms of relief was predicated on his allegation that he would be " subject to a sham criminal prosecution in the Philippines if removed to that country." Id. at 1050. He alleged that he and his wife had been " falsely charged with kidnapping" a prominent individual in the Philippines, and that they had fled to the United States to escape prosecution and avoid being retaliated against by members of that individual's family. Id. With respect to the CAT, Go alleged that he " would be subject to torture if he were held in a Philippine detention facility pending his trial for kidnapping." Id.

An immigration judge (IJ) found that Go was ineligible for asylum and withholding of removal because of his admission that he was " involved in an illegal drug-trafficking scheme." Id. As to the CAT claim, the IJ concluded that Go had " failed to carry his burden of demonstrating eligibility for relief." Id. This conclusion was predicated on testimony from a " government witness" who had " testified that Go would not be tortured in a Philippine detention facility while awaiting trial." Id. In two separate orders, the Board denied Go's appeal. Id. The first of these orders affirmed the IJ's conclusion that Go was statutorily ineligible for asylum and withholding of removal. Id. However, the CAT claim was remanded for further proceedings. Id. After the IJ held proceedings to address that claim more fully, the Board issued its second order, which rejected Go's claim for relief under the CAT. Id. at 1051. In this order, the Board considered several items of evidence that had been presented before the IJ, including: (1) the fact that " one of Go's co-defendants in the kidnapping... had not been tortured or otherwise mistreated" ; (2) the testimony of Cezar Tajanlangit, a former prosecutor in the Philippines, " who testified that torture was uncommon in the facility where Go would be detained" ; (3) the " notoriety" of the case, which made it " unlikely that an ill-intentioned officer would believe that he could abuse [Go] without being reported in the press" ; and (4) a resolution issued by the Philippine Justice Department that called for dismissal of the kidnapping charges against Go. Id.

We denied Go's petition to review the Board's orders. As to the CAT claim, we held that " substantial evidence support[ed] the Board's conclusion that Go is not likely to be tortured upon return to the Philippines." Id. at 1054. We emphasized several aspects of the evidence that led to this conclusion. First, we observed that one of Go's " alleged accomplices has been detained for some time without harm or incident," and that although several of his family members had also been charged with participating in his alleged crimes, none of them had been taken into government custody, much less tortured. Id. at 1053. Second, we pointed out that the Philippine government had ordered that the kidnapping charges against Go be dismissed, and said that if he is " no longer

Page 607

subject to a criminal prosecution in the Philippines, it follows that he is unlikely to be detained, let alone tortured." Id. Finally, we stated that " even if the kidnapping charges [were to] go forward," there was still additional evidence that Go was unlikely to be tortured. Id. at 1054. We first highlighted that Tajanlangit, the former prosecutor, had testified that torture was " not common" in the facility where Go would be detained and that the controversial nature of Go's case would " increase public scrutiny over the government's conduct." Id. We also considered country reports stating that Philippine officials are more likely to follow correct procedures where a criminal suspect is from " an influential position or is of a higher social status." Id. " Viewing the record as a whole," we upheld the Board's determination that Go was not likely to be tortured upon return to the Philippines. Id.

Following our decision, Go filed a motion before the Board to reopen for protection under the CAT. Go's motion to reopen was predicated upon " new and previously unavailable evidence," which Go alleged " call[ed] into question" the testimony offered by Tajanlangit before the IJ. The Board denied Go's motion to reopen as untimely, citing 8 C.F.R. § 1003.2(c) in support of this conclusion. It also held that the " additional evidence regarding [Tajanlangit] does not affect the reliability or veracity of his testimony in this proceeding," while the other " additional background evidence" submitted in connection with the motion to reopen did not " indicate that conditions are worsening or deteriorating in the Philippines in a manner material" to Go's claim.

II.

The regulations governing motions to reopen before the Board appear at 8 C.F.R. § 1003.2. These regulations provide that a party may file only one motion to reopen, and that such a motion " must be filed no later than 90 days after the date on which the final administrative decision was rendered in the proceeding sought to be reopened." 8 C.F.R. § 1003.2(c)(2). There are several exceptions to these limitations on a party's eligibility to file a motion to reopen, including an exception for motions to reopen " based on changed circumstances arising in the country of nationality or in the country to which deportation has been ordered, if such evidence is material and was not available and could not have been discovered or presented at the previous hearing." Id. § 1003.2(c)(3)(ii).

Go's principal argument is that the regulations governing motions to reopen at 8 C.F.R. § 1003.2(c) do not apply to motions that arise under the CAT, insofar as the language of these regulations " makes no reference to either the [CAT] or to deferral of removal." This is an argument that we have repeatedly rejected in a series of unpublished decisions. See, e.g., Singh v. Holder, 444 F. App'x 167, 167 (9th Cir. 2011) (rejecting the petitioner's " contention that there are no time limits for filing a motion to reopen to apply for CAT relief," and citing 8 C.F.R. § 1003.2(c)(2) in support of that conclusion); Chen Chen v. Holder, 388 F. App'x 608, 609 (9th Cir. 2010) (same); Flores v. Holder, 362 F. App'x 773, 774 (9th Cir. 2010) (same); Lopez Hernandez v. Holder, 339 F. App'x 781, 782 (9th Cir. 2009) (same).

That conclusion is also supported by the logic of our precedents and by holdings from our sister ...


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