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Singh v. Holder, No. 11-1609

Decided: November 5, 2012

Singh sought judicial review of an order of the Board of Immigration Appeals (“the Board”) denying his application for withholding of removal under the Immigration and Nationality Act (“the INA”) and under Article III of the Convention Against Torture (“the CAT”).  Singh argued on appeal that the Board denied relief in part based on an improper adverse credibility determination and that the errors of an incompetent interpreter violated his right to due process.  The Fourth Circuit found no error and denied Singh’s petition for review.

Singh, a citizen of India, traveled to Mexico on a student visa and subsequently entered the United States, where he was served with a Notice to Appear by the Department of Homeland Security. Singh applied for withholding of removal under the INA and under the CAT and submitted various supporting documents.  Singh initially appeared before an Immigration Judge (“the IJ”) with no interpreter present and the IJ continued the hearing until an interpreter could be present.  The IJ ultimately entered a written memorandum and order denying Singh’s application for withholding of removal.  Specifically, the IJ found Singh’s testimony lacked credibility and that Singh had not provided adequate corroboration for his claims.  The Board affirmed the IJ’s decision and further rejected Singh’s contention that the incompetence of the interpreter in the hearing before the IJ violated Singh’s due process rights.  Singh appealed to the Fourth Circuit.

Decisions by the IJ and the Board should be affirmed unless “manifestly contrary to the law and an abuse of discretion.”  8 U.S.C. § 1252(b)(4)(D).  In this case, the IJ considered the totality of the circumstances and concluded that Singh’s testimony was not credible.  The Fourth Circuit found that the IJ’s stated reasons were “specific and cogent” and upheld the adverse credibility determination as being supported by substantial evidence.  The court then turned to whether Singh was nonetheless entitled to withholding of removal under the INA or the CAT.  To prevail on a withholding claim under the INA, Singh had to establish a “clear probability of persecution” and link that probability to one of several grounds, including political opinion.  The Fourth Circuit found that Singh failed to demonstrate that he held a political opinion that would serve as the basis for further persecution if returned to India, and thus failed to establish a nexus to a statutorily protected ground. To prevail on a claim of withholding of removal under the CAT, Singh had to demonstrate that “it is more likely than not that he … would be tortured if removed” to India.  8 C.F.R. § 1208.16(c)(2).  The IJ acknowledged Singh’s past mistreatment and the pattern of human rights abuses in India, but concluded that such a pattern did not justify a finding that Singh would more likely than not be tortured.  Singh also claimed that his due process rights were violated by errors by his interpreter. The Fourth Circuit found that the IJ took specific steps to provide an interpreter and to ensure that Singh understood the interpreter.  Furthermore, the court found that Singh failed to prove that any imperfection in the interpreter’s work was prejudicial.  Accordingly, the Fourth Circuit denied Singh’s petition for review.

Full Opinion

-Michelle Theret