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Georgieva v. Holder

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

May 6, 2014

MARIYA BORISOVA GEORGIEVA and LACHEZAR D. DIMITROV, Petitioners,
v.
ERIC H. HOLDER, JR., Attorney General of the United States, Respondent

Argued January 15, 2014.

Page 515

On Petition for Review of a Final Order of the Board of Immigration Appeals.

For Mariya Borisova Georgieva, Petitioner: Shannon Marie Shepherd, Immigration Attorneys, Llp, Chicago, IL.

For Lachezar D. Dimitrov, Petitioner: Shannon Marie Shepherd, Immigration Attorneys, Llp, Chicago, IL.

For ERIC H. HOLDER, JR., Attorney General of the United States, Respondent: Catherine Bye, Tracie N. Jones, Oil, Department of Justice, Washington, DC.

Before FLAUM, EASTERBROOK, and ROVNER, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 516

Flaum, Circuit Judge .

Mariya Borisova Georgieva and Lachezar Dimitrov are Roma asylum-seekers. In 2002, the couple left Bulgaria and entered the United States legally. They say they were fleeing some of their non-Roma countrymen who had threatened Georgieva after she resisted being forced into the sex trade and became active in pro-Roma politics. Georgieva and Dimitrov also say they wanted to escape the atmosphere of persecution that faces the Roma people in Bulgaria. The immigration judge found Georgieva's testimony incredible and denied Georgieva and Dimitrov asylum. The Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed the immigration judge's decision. We deny the couple's petition for review.

I. Background

Georgieva and Dimitrov were born in Bulgaria and are Bulgarian citizens. They were admitted to the United States on March 6, 2002.[1] On March 5, 2003, Georgieva timely requested asylum, withholding

Page 517

of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture. On her application, Georgieva listed her husband Dimitrov as a derivative beneficiary. Georgieva filed her application with the Immigration and Naturalization Service, which referred her case to the Department of Justice's immigration courts on April 9, because the immigration courts have exclusive jurisdiction over Visa Waiver Program asylum applicants. 8 C.F.R. § 1208.2(c)(1)(iii). Proceedings commenced in August 2004, but the case was continued several times. Georgieva and Dimitrov did not appear before an immigration judge until May 2011.

Georgieva's credibility is the central issue in this case, because she provided most of the relevant facts and documentary evidence is sparse. Georgieva included in her asylum application a six-page statement describing her experiences in Bulgaria. She also testified at her immigration hearing, and discrepancies emerged between the statement and her testimony. We note where the stories diverge as we go.

Georgieva grew up in Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria. As a Roma child, she faced challenges. For example, she described one incident in the sixth grade, where a few non-Roma boys followed her into the bathroom at school. They pushed her down, beat her, yelled at her and called her " a dirty gypsy," and urinated on her. She reported the incident to school officials. But instead of responding, the officials accused her of lying and punished her. Georgieva says she received high grades in school and applied to colleges, but that she was not admitted because she was Roma.

In 2000, Georgieva began working either for a cleaning company or as a street sweeper for Blagoevgrad County (there is a discrepancy between her statement and hearing testimony). In November 2000, Georgieva's boss allegedly called her into his office and offered her a higher-paying job working in a meat factory in Naples, Italy; he claimed the position was part of an exchange program. Georgieva accepted, and met her boss's associates at the Blagoevgrad bus station, where there were seven other Roma women who had accepted the same " offer." The bus was to travel through Macedonia and other former Yugoslav Republics on the way to Naples.

Shortly after the bus crossed into Macedonia, the group stopped for lunch at a hotel. Armed men arrived and ordered the women into hotel rooms. The women were then given clothing and makeup and returned to the hotel lobby where they were displayed to " important" men who would select them for sex. At this point Georgieva's asylum application begins to differ markedly from her hearing testimony.

In her application statement Georgieva wrote that she " was forced to have sex with a strange man who paid for her like she was meat." She claimed that this happened multiple times--enough that she lost track of the days--and that the captors moved the women around to different places. Eventually, Georgieva escaped by hitting a man over the head with a lamp as he was undressing. She ran away, and was aided by Macedonian laborers working in a field. The laborers gave her a change of clothes, and eventually a " nice ...


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