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Wang v. Lynch

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

January 3, 2017

Ning Wang, Petitioner,
Loretta E. Lynch, Attorney General of the United States, Respondent.

          Argued November 15, 2016

         Petition for Review of an Order of the Board of Immigration Appeals. No. A201-003-028

          Before Wood, Chief Judge, and Bauer and Sykes, Circuit Judges.

          PER CURIAM.

         Ning Wang, a 25-year-old Chinese citizen (from Shenyang, the capital of the northeastern province of Liaoning), petitions for review of the denial of his applications for asylum and withholding of removal based on his fear of religious persecution for attending unsanctioned Christian gatherings. Wang also challenges the Immigration Judge's finding that his application was frivolous-a consequential finding that bars him from obtaining any future immigration benefits. We deny the petition with regard to the denial of his applications for immigration relief, but grant the petition with regard to the finding of frivolousness.

         Wang came to the United States in December 2010 on a student visa he obtained to attend Benedictine University at Springfield College in Springfield, Illinois. Wang never attended the school, however, and instead worked part-time at various restaurants in Chicago.

         In October 2011, Wang applied for asylum with the Department of Homeland Security, but the asylum officer denied his application, and DHS initiated removal proceedings against him. Wang was charged with removability based on his failure to comply with the conditions of the nonimmigrant status under which he was admitted. At a hearing before the IJ, Wang conceded his removability and renewed his application for asylum.

         At a later hearing, Wang testified that he sought asylum based on his fear of persecution for being a practicing Christian. Wang said that he started practicing Christianity after recovering from a month-long illness at age 17 thanks, in his eyes, to the daily prayers of his Christian grandmother. He then began accompanying his grandmother to Christian gatherings at a local pastor's home. He preferred attending these gatherings to those at the government-sanctioned church, which he said was "controlled by the Communists."

         Wang testified that he was injured in late 2009 during a police raid on one of the pastor's gatherings. He said that he was hit three times with a police baton, necessitating medical treatment-first at the small clinic near his home, and then a few days later at a larger hospital.

         A couple months later, in March 2010, Wang again got caught up in a police raid during a Christian gathering, and this time he was arrested and detained for a week. During this detention, he said, he was interrogated, kicked, punched, struck with a "leather whip, " and beaten with a baton. His parents paid a fine to get him released, and he sought treatment at the hospital for "bruises" and a skin "rash." Later, the police continued to "beat [him] up" every time they spotted him on the street.

         The IJ wholly disbelieved Wang's testimony, and denied his applications for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture. The IJ found Wang's testimony "riddled" with discrepancies, "extremely implausible, incredible, and inconsistent, " and the judge did not believe that Wang "even attended an underground gathering or was a practicing Christian in China." The IJ went so far as to impose a frivolous filing bar against Wang, concluding that Wang's documentation was "fabricated to support his already-filed request for asylum." A frivolous finding bar has the effect of permanently disqualifying an alien from any "benefits" under the immigration laws. See 8 U.S.C.A. § 1158(d)(6).

         The IJ based his adverse credibility finding in large part on inconsistencies between Wang's in-court testimony and his submitted documents. These inconsistencies included the following: (1) The medical record Wang submitted to the court was from the village health department and not from the hospital, as Wang testified; (2) Wang's application for asylum stated that 10 police officers showed up at the 2009 raid, but he testified at his hearing that there were 17; (3) Wang stated in his asylum application that he suffered a concussion as a result of the 2010 beatings, but at his hearing he testified that the concussion occurred during the 2009 incident; (4) A letter Wang submitted from his father stated that Wang suffered a bone fracture as a result of the police beatings, but Wang testified at the hearing that his father's reference to the bone fracture may have been "exaggerate[d] a little bit"; and (5) Wang's father wrote in his letter that he, too, was a pious Christian, but Wang denied at the hearing that his father attended services with him.

         The IJ also partially based his adverse credibility finding on Wang's lack of evidence that he was a practicing Christian. The IJ acknowledged a letter from one of Wang's friends recounting their meeting at a Chicago church, but the IJ noted that Wang did not claim that he had been baptized or otherwise confirm that he was a practicing Christian.

         The IJ also took a step further and ruled that Wang had filed a frivolous asylum application. The IJ based this finding on the same inconsistencies upon which he found Wang not credible, as well as Wang's failure to supplement his initial asylum application in 2011 with medical evidence, a detention warrant, or other documents to corroborate his mistreatment in 2009 and 2010. The IJ ...

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