The petitioner had a fear of torture in her home country, but the lower court ruled that she was not eligible for relief because of drug convictions.
Ms. Tunis was a refugee who became briefly addicted to drugs, and had one drug sale conviction during that period. The issues in the case were (1) whether her crime was “particularly serious,” so as to bar her from eligibility for Withholding of Removal, (2) whether the threat that she would be forced to suffer the completion of her half-completed female genital mutilation would be torture for purpose of the Convention Against Torture, and (3) whether the Sierre Leone government would acquiesce in that torture. The Court of Appeals agreed with the National Immigrant Justice Center that the Immigration Judge had made an error in analyzing the particularly serious crime issue, but nonetheless ruled against us, finding that her involvement in the drug sale could not be “peripheral” because she was the direct user. The National Immigrant Justice Center successfully argued that the circuit court had authority to overturn the agency’s decision denying the client the ability to stay in the United States. This case set precedent by treating female genital mutilation as torture when it is not prohibited by the laws of a nation and is practiced by social groups that state authorities do nothing to control.