Vitug v. Holder

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Immigration
  • Date Filed: 07-24-2013
  • Case #: 07-74754; 08-71038; 08-72088
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Pregerson for the Court; Circuit Judges Fletcher and Nguyen
  • Full Text Opinion

The Board of Immigration Appeals shall not engage in its own factfinding or ignore the immigration judge’s factual findings that were key to the holding.

Dennis Vitug, a Philippines citizen, was charged with removability because he had “overstayed his visa and was convicted of a controlled substance offense.” Before an immigration judge (“IJ”), Vitug admitted the charges and applied for asylum, withholding of removal, and Convention Against Torture (“CAT”) relief. The IJ granted Vitug withholding from removal and CAT relief, and the government appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”). The BIA did not find any of the “IJ’s factual findings to be clearly erroneous,” but held that Vitug failed to meet his burden of proof. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit noted that the BIA could review questions of law de novo, but not the findings of fact. The panel found that the IJ’s factual conclusions shall be reviewed only to determine whether the IJ’s findings were clearly erroneous. The panel concluded that the BIA had done its own factfinding and had abused its discretion because it “ignored the factual findings of the IJ that were key to the IJ’s holding.” The panel further concluded that the evidence in the record did not support the BIA’s denial of withholding of removal. The panel held that Vitug was eligible for withholding of removal and reversed the BIA’s denial under the substantial evidence standard. The panel remanded the case to the BIA with the instruction that it enter an order granting a withholding of removal. The panel held that the IJ’s record lacked the substantial evidence necessary to find “that Vitug was more likely than not to be tortured if he returns to the Philippines” and upheld the BIA’s denial of CAT relief. PETITION GRANTED IN PART, DENIED IN PART, and REMANDED.

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