April 6, 2016
for Review of an Order of the Board of Immigration Appeals
Flaum, Ripple, and Hamilton, Circuit Judges.
Hamilton, Circuit Judge.
Santashbekov petitions for review of an order of the Board of
Immigration Appeals denying his application for asylum. The
immigration judge found that Santashbekov's claims of
political persecution were not credible, and the Board
affirmed. We deny Santashbekov's petition because
substantial evidence supports the judge's and Board's
Factual and Procedural Background
early 2013, Daniiar Santashbekov filed an application for
asylum claiming that he faced persecution for his political
activism as a member of the youth wing of the Ata Meken party
in his native Kyrgyzstan. His asylum application was denied,
and he was served with a Notice to Appear for removal
proceedings on April 24, 2013. Santashbekov admitted his
removability but renewed his application for asylum.
Attorney General or Secretary of Homeland Security may grant
asylum to an immigrant who has "a well-founded fear of
persecution on account of race, religion, nationality,
membership in a particular social group, or political
opinion" in his home country. 8 U.S.C. §§
1101(a)(42), 1158(b)(1)(A). The applicant for asylum has the
burden of proof, which may be satisfied by the
applicant's own testimony if it is credible. 8 U.S.C.
§§ 1158(b)(1)(B), 1231(b)(3)(C). A trier of fact
may base a credibility determination on a wide variety of
factors, "using whatever combination of considerations
seems best in the situation at hand." Mitondo v.
Mukasey, 523 F.3d 784, 789 (7th Cir. 2008); see 8 U.S.C.
§ 1158(b)(1)(B)(iii). The trier of fact may base an
adverse credibility decision on inconsistencies,
inaccuracies, or falsehood, and there is no longer any
requirement that an "inconsistency, inaccuracy, or
falsehood goes to the heart of the applicant's
claim...." 8 U.S.C. § 1158(b)(1)(B)(iii).
application stems from political unrest in Kyrgyzstan. In
April 2010, opposition parties protested and ousted the
then-president. Ata Meken was one of the opposition parties,
and it became part of a new coalition government. After the
2010 revolution, according to the U.S. State Department,
Kyrgyzstan continued to face instability and human rights
problems, including arbitrary arrests and torture by law
enforcement and security forces.
immigration judge characterized Santashbekov's testimony
about his own situation as "vague" and
"extremely confusing." In essence, Santashbekov
testified that he had joined the youth wing of the Ata Meken
party at his university in Bishkek in October 2010. After he
gave a political speech at his university in December 2010,
he began experiencing persecution by a man named Kurmanov,
who Santashbekov believes is a member of an opposing
political party and a police or government official.
Santashbekov testified that Kurmanov and his associates asked
him to repudiate the Ata Meken party and detained and beat
him several times in 2011. He testified that after the
beatings, he was afraid to leave his home and changed his
address in Bishkek. Santashbekov also changed his name, which
was formerly Sultanhodzhaev. Santashbekov testified that his
supervisor at the Ata Meken party, Zhoomart Saparbaev,
recommended that he flee the country and helped him.
also submitted documentary evidence to the immigration judge.
He submitted hospital paperwork that confirms that he
received medical treatment in Kyrgyzstan corresponding to the
beatings he described. He submitted criminal court documents
showing that Kurmanov was prosecuted and that Santashbekov
was named as a "plaintiff" in the proceeding. And
Santashbekov submitted a document confirming that he legally
changed his name in December 2011. Finally, he submitted a
letter from Saparbaev saying that Santashbekov had
"helped us working with young people in various
activities." The letter does not mention the Ata Meken
party or detail Santashbekov's political involvement, but
it is on letterhead from the Jogorku Kenesh, Kyrgyzstan's
immigration judge did not believe Santashbekov's
testimony. He made an adverse credibility determination based
on the vague and sometimes contradictory nature of
Santashbekov's testimony. The judge also found that
Santashbekov's documentary evidence was insufficient to
support his claims of political activity or persecution. The
judge concluded that Santashbekov did not carry his burden of
proof and denied the application for asylum. The Board
affirmed the immigration judge's denial, also noting
inconsistencies in Santashbekov's testimony
the Board affirms the immigration judge's decision and
adds its own analysis, as it did here, we review the
immigration judge's decision and the Board's
additional reasoning. Darinchuluun v. Lynch, 804
F.3d 1208, 1214 (7th Cir. 2015). Our review is deferential.
We review administrative findings of fact, including
credibility determinations, for substantial evidence.
Tawuo v. Lynch, 799 F.3d 725, 727 (7th Cir. 2015).
Under that standard, we must uphold factual determinations
"supported by reasonable, substantial, and probative
evidence on the record considered as a whole."
Balogun v. Ashcroft, 374 F.3d 492, 498 (7th Cir.
2004). We may not reverse an administrative finding of fact
"unless any reasonable adjudicator would be compelled to
conclude to the contrary." 8 U.S.C. §
1252(b)(4)(B). An immigration judge's credibility
findings should be overturned only under "extraordinary
circumstances." Balogun, 374 F.3d at 498,
citing Pop v. INS, 270 F.3d 527, 531 (7th Cir.
2001). Still, an adverse credibility finding must be
supported by specific and cogent reasons, and the judge must
consider explanations offered for gaps and inconsistencies.
See Lishou Wang v. Lynch, 804 F.3d 855, 858 (7th
Cir. 2015) (granting relief); Tawuo v. Lynch, 799
F.3d at 726 (denying relief).
substantial evidence supports the Board's and the
immigration judge's finding that Santashbekov's
testimony was not credible. The Board and the judge noted
that Santash-bekov testified vaguely about Kurmanov's
identity. He could not identify the political party to which
Kurmanov belonged or the part of the government in which he
worked. Similarly, as the Board and the judge noted, despite
being prompted by the immigration judge, Santashbekov did not
explain why Kurmanov would travel the 400 kilometers from
Bishkek to Karakol to persecute him, as Santashbekov had
claimed he had. Immigration authorities may discredit
testimony for lack of "inherent plausibility." 8
U.S.C. § 1158(b)(1)(B)(iii). Santashbekov's
vagueness and his failure to clarify the parts of his story
the judge found implausible provided sufficient grounds to
support an adverse ...