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May 27, 2014

RRD is a former Mexican federal police officer who investigated and prosecuted drug cartels. Even after leaving the police force, RRD was targeted by the drug cartels and survived an assassination attempt. RRD applied for asylum and withholding of removal but his applications were denied by the Immigration Judge and the Board of Immigration Appeals dismissed his timely appeal. The National Immigrant Justice Center filed a petition for review on RRD’s behalf in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit seeking judicial review of the agency’s determinations.

Counsel argued that the BIA erred in holding that the persecution suffered by RRD was not on account of his membership in a social group of honest law enforcement officers (or former officers) who investigated and prosecuted cartels. Further, counsel disputed the BIA’s holding that a police officer may not obtain asylum due to past persecution he experienced as a result of actions he took in connection with his job. Counsel urges the Seventh Circuit to uphold its precedent in refusing to accept the notion that police officers and soldiers cannot show past persecution based on that status. Likewise, counsel maintained that RRD has a well-founded fear of future persecution on account of his status as a former police officer. Counsel presented evidence of past persecution that then gives rise to a rebuttable presumption of future persecution, which presumption the government did not rebut. Lastly, counsel argued that the BIA erred in denying withholding of removal for the same reasons it denied asylum.

Counsel filed the petition for review on May 20, 2013 and the case was argued before a three judge panel consisting of Judges Easterbrook, Manion, and Hamilton on March 5, 2014. On March 19, 2014, the Seventh Circuit granted RRD’s petition for review, vacated his removal order and remanded the case to the BIA. The court found that while RRD’s success in fighting the cartels placed him in a smaller subset of the particular social group of “honest police officers” on which he based his claim, he was still a member of the larger social group. In fact, the court found, RRD was at greater risk than other members of the group. The court emphasized that RRD could base his asylum claim on being an honest police officer regardless of whether or not every member of that group has faces equal persecution.

The court went on to rebuke the BIA for ignoring RRD’s testimony and evidence demonstrating that drug organizations in Mexico have a history of targeting former police officers, and that they specifically targeted RRD.

The court concluded its legal analysis by reprimanding the government’s determination to deport a man who “appears to be someone who should be hired and put to work by the Department of Homeland Security itself, rather than sent packing.” The court explains that besides being an honest and effective policeman in Mexico, RRD has “led an exemplary life in the United States since entering (lawfully) and applying for asylum.”

RRD was represented by Lisa Koop and Charles Roth of NIJC and Matthew Price and Paul Smith of Jenner & Block LLP.

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