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Rodriguez-Arias v. Whitaker

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

February 12, 2019

EDUARDO ANTONIO RODRIGUEZ-ARIAS, Petitioner,
v.
MATTHEW G. WHITAKER, Acting Attorney General, Respondent.

          Argued: October 30, 2018

          On Petition for Review of an Order of the Board of Immigration Appeals.

         ARGUED:

          James Feroli, CATHOLIC CHARITIES IMMIGRATION LEGAL SERVICES, Washington, D.C., for Petitioner.

          Margot Lynne Carter, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Respondent.

         ON BRIEF:

          Jennifer Bibby-Gerth, CATHOLIC CHARITIES IMMIGRATION LEGAL SERVICES, Washington, D.C., for Petitioner.

          Chad A. Readler, Acting Assistant Attorney General, Terri J. Scadron, Assistant Director, Leslie McKay, Senior Litigation Counsel, Office of Immigration Litigation, Civil Division, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Respondent.

          Before FLOYD and HARRIS, Circuit Judges, and Donald C. COGGINS, United States District Judge for the District of South Carolina, sitting by designation.

          FLOYD, CIRCUIT JUDGE

         Eduardo Rodriguez-Arias (Rodriguez), a native of El Salvador, petitions for review of the final order of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) affirming the denial of his claim for protection under the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). We grant his petition for review of his CAT claim, vacate the BIA's order with respect to that claim, and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         I.

         Rodriguez fled El Salvador's rampant gang-related violence and crime in 2005, when he unlawfully entered the United States as a twelve-year-old. At that time, his grandparents were being extorted by the gangs, he himself had been robbed twice by them, and his teenage cousin had been killed after refusing to join them. The cause of Rodriguez's flight now forms part of the basis for his claim for relief: Rodriguez fears being returned to El Salvador due to the country's continued high rate of gang-perpetrated violence. But what's more, he now also fears violence at the hands of anti-gang vigilante groups and the state police because today he bears the insignia of gang affiliation on his body-gang-related tattoos.

         After he arrived in the United States, Rodriguez moved to Maryland and joined Sureños 13, a United States-based gang with no presence in El Salvador. Due to his affiliation with Sureños 13, Rodriguez obtained multiple tattoos that identify him as a gang member. These include the word "Sureños" on his chest, the phrase "Brown Pride" on his stomach, "BPS" and "13" on his left hand, the letter "S" above each of his knees, and "BPS" on his back. A.R. 951-56. Although Rodriguez left Sureños 13 in ...


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