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Chatta v. Mukasey

April 21, 2008


Petition for Review of an Order of the Board of Immigration Appeals No. A78 865 668.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Evans, Circuit Judge.


Before CUDAHY, POSNER, and EVANS, Circuit Judges.

In September 2002, when he was 16 years old, Adeel Hassan Chatta, a citizen of Pakistan, entered the United States at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport without a valid entry document. Immigration officials detained him at the airport and removal proceedings were filed against him under 8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(4)(A), as an alien who was likely to become a public charge, and 8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(7)(A)(i)(i), as an alien who was not in possession of a valid immigration document. Chatta applied for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the United Nations Convention Against Torture. Following a hearing on his applications, the immigration judge denied relief. Chatta appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals, which affirmed without opinion. Today we consider his petition for review of that decision.

In Chatta's interview with an immigration official at O'Hare, he said he was born in Pakistan in 1988, thus claiming to be 14 years old. He said he did not have a valid Pakistani passport and admitted that he had a false passport given to him by someone his father paid. Chatta also said he was a student headed to Canada. He denied any fear of returning to Pakistan and said he would not be harmed if he returned. Asked specifically whether he had any reservations about returning home because of his race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group, he said he did not.

At his hearing before the immigration judge, however, Chatta testified that he feared persecution and torture in Pakistan because of his religion and family membership. He said he was born in Jhamwala, Pakistan, a town of about 2,000 residents, in 1986, not 1988 as he had said at the airport. He said he lived in Pakistan with his parents, two older brothers, a sister, and his grandfather. His grandfather and parents remain in the family home, but his sister now lives with an aunt in another town. He said he is not sure where his brothers live. When he left Pakistan, Chatta was in the tenth grade. He said he left because he was "scared of some people and the police that I might be killed."

The reasons he gave for his fear involve a prominent Shi'a family in Jhamwala. Chatta's family is Sunni Muslim. Although most of his family is not particularly religious, his grandfather belongs to the Deoband Sunni sect, and consequently his entire family is affiliated with that sect. Three Deoband families live in the town, and according to Chatta the majority of the other residents are Shi'a Muslims. He contends that in Jhamwala, two or three powerful Shi'a families own land. One of those families, also named Chatta but not related to our petitioner Chatta, is well-connected with politicians and police officers. (To minimize the confusion, we will refer to the petitioner as Chatta and to the other family as the Shi'a Chattas.)

The two families did not get along because of economic and religious differences. According to Chatta's testimony, in 2002 the Shi'a Chatta family directed its mosque to make insulting announcements over its external loudspeaker directed at the Deoband sect. Chatta's grandfather, oldest brother, and an individual from another Deoband family were angered and asked their Maulvi (religious leader) to do something about the broadcast. The Maulvi then broadcast, over the external loudspeakers of the Chatta family mosque, a message denouncing the message of the Shi'a Chattas. The Shi'a Chattas confronted the other Deoband family, which then left town. Chatta's father was worried that his family might have to leave town as well. Chatta's father and grandfather apologized to the Shi'a Chattas and sent Chatta's oldest brother to live in another town.

But two days later, three or four of the young men in the Shi'a family asked Chatta to sell drugs for them. He refused, and on his way home from school the men assaulted Chatta, who stayed home from school for a day or two. When he returned, the young men again asked him to sell drugs, and he again refused. He was attacked for a second time. This time Chatta was taken to a doctor and his father reported the incident to the police; a copy of the report is in the record. Two or three days later, Chatta returned to school; again he was asked to sell drugs; and again he refused and was beaten.

Later, on Pakistan's Independence Day, Chatta and his brothers were riding around on motorbikes, celebrating. When they returned home, they heard their mother and sister screaming inside the house. When they entered, they saw their grandfather and mother tied up to pillars and their sister being held down in a rape attempt. Three or four of the same men who had previously attacked Chatta were in the house. Chatta's brother grabbed a kitchen knife and stabbed one of the men in the stomach. Chatta and his brothers rode away on their motorbikes. As they fled, Chatta's oldest brother was shot in the leg. The brothers went to a neighboring town, where they took the injured brother to a doctor and then telephoned their parents. Their father told him that "they" were looking for Chatta and his brothers. Chatta attributed the attack to religious differences between the families and the confrontation over the mosque broadcasts.

A week later, Chatta's father sent him to Canada, where he says he has relatives. Chatta also said he spoke to his parents after arriving in the United States and they told him the police continue to look for his brothers. Chatta says he could not live with relatives elsewhere in Pakistan because the police are controlled by the Shi'a Chatta family and he would be found and killed. In the record is an arrest warrant for Chatta in connection with the stabbing incident.

Other documentary evidence in the record includes an affidavit describing his family, his religious background, and the circumstances which led to his departure from Pakistan. There are also newspaper and Internet articles, country condition reports prepared by both the United States Department of State and Amnesty International. Also, there are statements from his father, mother, grandfather, and the headmaster of his school. His mother's statement says that "his enemy will not let it go and will most probably kill him on his return." His father says that Chatta's "life is in danger here. And he will not be able to study here. When in America, he can complete his studies and his life will be out of danger." His grandfather says Chatta's "enemies will not let it go." His headmaster said that Chatta left school because of a "fight in the village."

In addition, Dr. Joan Liautaud testified at the hearing as to her diagnosis that Chatta suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of seeing his sister raped and being separated from his family.

In a careful and thorough decision, the immigration judge denied Chatta's request for relief. He found that Chatta was not credible because of (1) the discrepancies between the documentary evidence and Chatta's claim, (2) the blatant contradictions between Chatta's airport interview and subsequent asylum testimony regarding his age, his purpose for traveling to Canada, and whether he had a fear of returning to Pakistan, and (3) the implausibility of the circumstances surrounding the arrest warrant against him. In the face of Chatta's incredible testimony, the judge looked for corroborating evidence to bolster the claim for relief but found little support for his claim. Finally, the judge determined that, even if Chatta were believed, he failed to demonstrate past persecution or a well-founded fear of future persecution. He failed to show that the Pakistani government was unable or unwilling to protect him and he could not show a well-founded fear of future persecution when his family ...

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