Petition for Review of the Order of the Board of Immigration Appeals
Before CUMMINGS, COFFEY and KANNE, Circuit Judges.
Petitioner Vassil Krastev ("Krastev") seeks review of the affirmance by the Board of Immigration Appeals ("BIA") of the decision of an Immigration Judge ("IJ") denying Krastev's request for political asylum, or in the alternative, withholding of deportation. The sole issue before us is whether the decision of the BIA was supported by substantial evidence. We affirm.
Krastev is a 42-year old male who was born in and is a citizen of Bulgaria. He entered the United States on a non-immigrant visitor visa on August 9, 1990. The visa authorized him to remain until February 7, 1991, but Krastev did not depart the U.S. in a timely fashion, and on September 14, 1994, he was issued an Order to Show Cause alleging his deportability for remaining beyond his visa period.
Krastev admitted his deportability at the initial hearing on December 23, 1994, and requested asylum and/or withholding of deportation pursuant to sections 208(a) and 243(h) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (the "Act"). 8 U.S.C. secs. 1158(a), 1253(h). The Act provides the Attorney General discretion to grant asylum and/or withholding of deportation to applicants who can prove their status as "refugees" as the Act defines that term. After Krastev filed a formal application for asylum and/or withholding of deportation, a second hearing was held on April 6, 1995.
In his application and at the April 6 hearing, Krastev asserted that his request was based on threats against his life made by Bulgarian communist authorities while he was living in Bulgaria, as well as past persecution and murder of his family members. Krastev also asserted his belief that, if he were forced to return to Bulgaria, he would be subjected to persecution and his life would be threatened due to his familial affiliation and his anti-communist political beliefs. He testified that his family had been wealthy landowners and supporters of the monarchy which ruled Bulgaria prior to the communist takeover. Krastev stated that his grandfather and uncle had been persecuted by the communists, and that his uncle eventually fled in 1945 to avoid communist attempts to kill him. Krastev further alleged that his father had been murdered by communists while on a trip to Czechoslovakia in 1987, but he failed to present any evidence that his father's death was caused by other than natural causes or that it was perpetrated by Bulgarian communists, except for the fact that he "strongly believe[d]" this to be true. He did testify that people in the streets whom he believed to be affiliated with the communists warned him not to investigate his father's death or he would be killed himself.
As to alleged persecution he suffered personally, Krastev asserted that it began in 1973, when he refused, because of his opposition to the communist regime, to serve in the Bulgarian army. Krastev testified that the authorities accepted his refusal to serve in the military, and assigned him to work in a steel plant, and assigned him to what he felt were the most physically demanding and dangerous jobs. Krastev worked at this plant for five years, and acknowledged that he was paid for his work; he claimed, however, that the work was not commensurate with his educational experience, for he was trained as an electrical engineer.
While working at the plant, Krastev completed a bachelor's degree in economics, and in 1983, he moved into a new position as payroll administrator and economist with the same employer. While working in this capacity, Krastev claimed that he uncovered black market fraud on the part of his superiors, one of whom was a communist party official. Krastev claimed that, as a result of his refusal to participate in the scheme and his reporting the scheme to a Bulgarian court in 1987, he was threatened with death or imprisonment by co-workers and supervisors who were party members and officials. Krastev eventually left that job in 1988, and found work with a government savings bank, where he worked until he departed from Bulgaria for the United States in September 1990.
Krastev testified that, after leaving his former job in 1988, his life continued to be threatened by his former co-workers until he left the country. He admitted, however, that he had never been jailed while in Bulgaria, save a very brief detainment related to an incident involving theft at his job, for which it does not appear from the record that Krastev was responsible, and for which he was not convicted or imprisoned. Krastev also admitted in his application that he belonged to no political organizations or groups, and there is nothing in the record, save Krastev's testimony that he made his anti-communist views well known to friends and acquaintances, that he was ever involved in any organized anti-communist activity in Bulgaria. Krastev was apparently able to obtain a Bulgarian passport without difficulty and was permitted to travel to the United States at the time of his visit in 1990.
The IJ ruled that Krastev had failed to sustain his burden of proof as to both the application for asylum and for withholding of deportation. The IJ concluded that Krastev's testimony was "self-serving and uncorroborated," and also concluded that there was "little likelihood," based even on Krastev's testimony, that he would be harmed if he returned to Bulgaria. In affirming the IJ, the BIA concluded that Krastev had failed to carry his burden of proof to ...