Petition for Review from the Board of Immigration Appeals;
No. A 208 203 847.
C. Larcade, MCKINNEY & NAMEI CO., L.P.A., Cincinnati,
Ohio, for Petitioner.
N. McDonald, UNITED STATE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington,
D.C., for Respondent.
Before: GILMAN, SUTTON, and WHITE, Circuit Judges.
LEE GILMAN, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
Rene Gonzalez-De Leon (Gonzalez), a native and citizen of
Guatemala, surrendered himself at the United States border
and requested asylum. Gonzalez alleges that he would be
persecuted and tortured because of his status as a former
taxi driver if he is removed to Guatemala. An immigration
judge (IJ) denied Gonzalez's application for asylum,
withholding of removal, and protection under the United
Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT). The Board of
Immigration Appeals (BIA) affirmed. Gonzalez then filed this
appeal, Gonzalez argues that the BIA erred in (1) affirming
the IJ's adverse credibility finding, and (2) concluding
that "taxi drivers in Guatemala," "taxi
drivers living in the poppy producing region of
Guatemala," and "Guatemala taxi drivers who have
refused gang recruitment and extortion" are not
cognizable as "particular social groups" under
asylum law. Gonzalez also contends that (3) the IJ and the
BIA did not have the authority to hear Gonzalez's case
because the Notice to Appear issued to him did not specify
the date and time of the hearing. For the reasons set forth
below, we DENY the petition for review.
was a taxi driver in an area of Guatemala with significant
drug trafficking, poppy cultivation, and opium production. As
a taxi driver, he became very knowledgeable about the
geography of the surrounding communities. Eventually,
Gonzalez learned that he had been unknowingly transporting
drugs for local gang members.
of the gang first threatened Gonzalez around January 2015.
Gonzalez responded by telling them that he was not going to
participate in drug trafficking or gang activities. After he
refused to help them, Gonzalez began receiving more threats.
In June 2015, gang members threatened to kill Gonzalez, his
wife, and his son. This caused Gonzalez to stop working as a
taxi driver, and he began working as a mechanic in order to
save the money needed to flee the country. He ultimately fled
Guatemala around October 2015.
arrived at a port of entry in Arizona on October 26, 2015.
The next month, an asylum officer found that Gonzalez had
demonstrated a credible fear of persecution or torture. On
November 30, 2015, Gonzalez was given a Notice to Appear,
which did not notify him of the date or time that he was to
appear before an IJ. But Gonzalez was given a Notice of
Hearing the following day, stating that his case was
scheduled for a master-calendar hearing on December 7, 2015,
at 8:30 a.m. He appeared at the master-calendar hearing and
ultimately applied for asylum, withholding of removal, and
2017, the IJ denied Gonzalez's application. The IJ
concluded that Gonzalez was not credible, stating that
Gonzalez's testimony conflicted with his answers given
during the "credible-fear" interview with the
asylum officer in November 2015. In addition, the IJ
determined that Gonzalez was not eligible for asylum,
withholding of removal, or CAT protection. Specifically, the
IJ found that Gonzalez had not shown that he was a member of
a particular social group that is subject to protection under
asylum law. Gonzalez then filed a timely appeal to the BIA.
The BIA affirmed the IJ's decision, concluding that
Gonzalez's "three proposed particular social groups
. . . do not pass legal muster" because "taxi
driving is not an immutable characteristic on which a
particular social group may be based."