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Chehab v. Holder

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

August 8, 2013

MOHAMAD HASAN CHEHAB, Petitioner,
v.
ERIC H. HOLDER, JR., U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL, Respondent.

Petition for Review of an order of the Board of Immigration Appeals BIA No. A094 971 252

Before STEWART, Chief Judge, and DAVIS and WIENER, Circuit Judges.

PER CURIAM:[*]

Petitioner Mohamad Hasan Chehab ("Chehab"), a native and citizen of Lebanon, petitions for review of an order entered by the Board of Immigration Appeals ("BIA"), dismissing his appeal from an order of removal. In its order, the BIA agreed with the Immigration Judge's conclusions that Chehab had not shown that he was a refugee for purposes of 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(42)(A) because he had not shown that he had a well-founded fear of future persecution in Lebanon based on either his neutral political opinion or his membership in an asserted particular social group, namely, single Lebanese men born after 1973 who refuse to join Hezbollah. Chehab now petitions this court for review of the BIA's order and also asserts that his asylum claim was prejudiced by ineffective assistance of counsel. We DENY his petition.

I. BACKGROUND

In 2008, Chehab was charged with being removable as an alien who had arrived in this country without being admitted or inspected. Chehab conceded the charge. However, he argued that he was eligible for asylum under 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(42)(A) because he had a well-founded fear of persecution based on "race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion."

In October 2008, Chehab requested sixty days to "identify an appropriate expert witness" and to obtain corroborating documents. The Immigration Judge ("IJ") granted Chehab until January 5, 2009, more than the sixty days requested. The proceedings were subsequently reassigned to a different IJ who, in a March 31, 2009 hearing, set Chehab's merits hearing for January 22, 2010 and required both parties to submit exhibits, witness lists, and other documentation by December 22, 2009. Chehab's counsel failed to file any documents by the deadline, instead filing numerous documents on January 11, 2010. In the cover letter filing the exhibits, Chehab's counsel notified the court that "we will be bringing an expert witness, Mr. Joseph Hage, to testify on my client's behalf." The letter and accompanying documents did not include any additional information about the purported expert, such as identifying the witness' qualifications or summarizing his testimony.

At the hearing, the Government objected to the admission of the evidence and the expert's testimony. The IJ excluded the documents as untimely and the expert witness' testimony for lack of information about the expert's qualifications. At the hearing, Chehab contended that he was eligible for asylum because he had been subjected to physical abuse and threats from Hezbollah members who wanted Chehab to join Hezbollah and because he held neutral political views. Chehab argued that he was a member of a "particular social group, " for 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(42)(A) purposes, namely that of single Lebanese men born after 1973 who refuse to join Hezbollah.

The IJ found Chehab was not credible and denied him asylum. Moreover, the IJ reasoned that even were Chehab credible, he would still be ineligible for asylum because his political neutrality was not a recognizable political opinion and because he had not shown that he was a member of a "particular social group." Upon review, the BIA affirmed the IJ's determination, for the reasons stated in the IJ's decision, that Chehab had not established a nexus based on political opinion. The BIA then analyzed Chehab's "particular social group" contention and affirmed the IJ. The BIA did not review the IJ's credibility determination because "even if credible, the respondent is unable to meet all of the statutory requirements for the relief he seeks." Finally, the BIA held that Chehab had not established that his counsel's ineffective assistance prejudiced his claim.[1]

II. ASYLUM

A. Standard of Review

"We generally have authority to review only the decision of the BIA. When the IJ's ruling affects the BIA's decision, however, we also review the decision of the IJ." Zhu v. Gonzales, 493 F.3d 588, 593 (5th Cir. 2007) (citations omitted).

We review the BIA's legal conclusions de novo, and we "defer to [its] interpretation of immigration regulations if the interpretation is reasonable." Tesfamichael v. Gonzales, 469 F.3d 109, 113 (5th Cir. 2006) (citations omitted). We will uphold the BIA's factual findings if they are supported by substantial evidence, "that is, unless the evidence is so compelling that no reasonable factfinder could fail to find otherwise." Id. (citation omitted). The conclusion that an alien is not eligible for asylum is a factual finding and is ...


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