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Administrative – Ex-Columbian police officer established persecution by FARC

Where a former Columbian police officer and his family were subjected to at least five threats of death and harm from January to May 2013 by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, the Board of Immigration Appeals erred in concluding that he had failed to demonstrate past persecution.

Background

Edier de Jesus Rodriguez Bedoya, his wife and two children seek review of a final order of removal entered by the BIA in August 2019. The BIA therein upheld the ruling of an immigration judge that the petitioners, who are citizens of Colombia, had not sufficiently established persecution based on threats of death and harm by FARC.

Analysis

Bedoya first contends that the BIA erred in concluding that he had failed to demonstrate past persecution. The court agrees. Bedoya’s credible and undisputed evidence establishes that he and his family were subjected to at least five threats of death and harm from January to May 2013. The written threats bore the FARC logo and targeted Bedoya because he is “OUT OF THE POLICE” and “THE MATTER ON 1995 IS STILL PENDING.”

Although the written threats and texts never explicitly say that FARC will “kill” Bedoya, their meaning is plain and unambiguous. They threaten death and grave injury by referencing “BOMBS” going off nearby, saying that they will “hunt” Bedoya and texting that “it” will be at the end of the month. Importantly, FARC’s messages are readily understood to threaten death as a result of FARC’s prior killing of Bedoya’s friend Correa for lying to protect Bedoya.

Finally, two of the text threats explicitly targeted members of Bedoya’s family, and one text threat showed that FARC had tracked the location of Bedoya’s daughter “IN MEDELLIN.” As this court has repeatedly emphasized, “threats to one’s close relatives is an important factor” in determining past persecution.

The BIA fatally erred in deciding that Bedoya had not established past persecution because the various threats were merely “written” and because Bedoya was never physically approached by FARC members. This court has recognized that “the threat of death alone constitutes persecution” and has never required that a petitioner be physically harmed or personally approached in order for the threats to qualify as persecution.

Moreover, this court’s precedents demonstrate that death threats may be written. Indeed, written home-delivered death threats and text messages can easily be more menacing than verbal threats, in that they show that the writer and sender knows where his target lives and the relevant personal cellphone number. The BIA also emphasized the period of time between the threats that Bedoya received in 1996 and those he received in 2013. That period, however, is not dispositive of Bedoya’s asylum claim, in that he has clearly shown past persecution on the basis of the threats he received in 2013.

The earlier incident in 1996—where Bedoya’s friend Correa was killed for trying to protect Bedoya from FARC—simply bolsters Bedoya’s asylum claim and highlights FARC’s “penchant for extracting vengeance.” Moreover, if FARC is targeting former Colombian police officers for their past actions, there is inevitably going to be a time gap between the actions of such officers and when an officer retires.

When an asylum applicant establishes that he has suffered past persecution, he is “presumed to have a well-founded fear of future persecution.” The BIA failed to acknowledge and apply this principle. Because this court reverses the BIA’s ruling that Bedoya failed to demonstrate that he suffered past persecution, Bedoya is entitled to the presumption that he has shown a well-founded fear of future persecution. As a result, the BIA must reconsider the asylum application and apply the proper presumption.

Petition for review granted and remand awarded.

Rodriguez-Bedoya v. Barr (Lawyers Weekly No. 001-130-20, 13 pp.) (Robert Bruce King, J.) Case No. 19-1930. Nov. 25, 2020. From the Board of Immigration Appeals. Bradley Bruce Banias for Petitioners. Aliza B. Alyeshmerni for Respondent.


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