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ZHANG v. BARR (2020)

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United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.

Haifeng ZHANG, Petitioner, v. William P. BARR, Attorney General, Respondent.

No. 18-73211

Decided: October 26, 2020

Before: WALLACE, BEA, and BENNETT, Circuit Judges. Maria Christina Flores, Attorney, Law Office of Maria Christina Flores, San Gabriel, CA, for Petitioner Chief Counsel ICE, Office of the Chief Counsel, Department of Homeland Security, San Francisco, CA, Vanessa M. Otero, Attorney, DOJ - U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Division/Office of Immigration Litigation, Washington, DC, for Respondent


Petitioner Haifeng Zhang seeks review of the decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) that affirmed the Immigration Judge's (“IJ”) denial of his applications for asylum and withholding of removal based on an adverse credibility determination. He also challenges the BIA's alternative holding that his claims fail even if he were deemed credible. We have jurisdiction under 8 U.S.C. § 1252 to review final orders of removal. We review for substantial evidence “denials of asylum [and] withholding of removal” “and will uphold a denial supported by reasonable, substantial, and probative evidence on the record considered as a whole.” Yali Wang v. Sessions, 861 F.3d 1003, 1007 (9th Cir. 2017) (citation omitted). Factual findings, including adverse credibility determinations, will be upheld “unless any reasonable adjudicator would be compelled to conclude to the contrary.” Garcia v. Holder, 749 F.3d 785, 789 (9th Cir. 2014) (citations omitted). We deny the petition.

Because “the BIA reviewed the IJ's credibility-based decision for clear error and relied upon the IJ's opinion as a statement of reasons but did not merely provide a boilerplate opinion, ․ we review here the reasons explicitly identified by the BIA, and then examine the reasoning articulated in the IJ's ․ decision in support of those reasons.” Lai v. Holder, 773 F.3d 966, 970 (9th Cir. 2014) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

Here, the IJ identified, and the BIA relied on, inconsistencies between Zhang's testimony and his wife's statement, as well as the unreliability of Zhang's corroborating evidence. See Shrestha v. Holder, 590 F.3d 1034, 1044 (9th Cir. 2010) (noting that under the totality of the circumstances approach, an IJ may rely on inconsistencies and “any other relevant factor”). The IJ found Zhang's testimony regarding his wife's first visit to the United States to be inconsistent with his wife's statement. The IJ also found that Zhang's filing for asylum within one month after arriving in the United States undermined his testimony regarding the reasons his wife did not flee to the United States with him. Moreover, the IJ found the medical records submitted by Zhang to corroborate his testimony to be of questionable reliability. Zhang's attempt to recharacterize as “trivial” the inconsistencies in his testimony and the other evidence is unavailing. See id. at 1043 (describing typographical errors and misspelling as examples of trivial inconsistencies).

The IJ's holding, and the BIA's affirmance, that Zhang was not denied an opportunity to provide missing corroborating evidence is also not erroneous. As the BIA properly reasoned, the IJ did not request additional evidence, but simply evaluated the evidence that Zhang had submitted, under the totality of the circumstances, in reaching a decision. In sum, the record does not compel the conclusion that the adverse credibility determination was erroneous.

Without Zhang's testimony, the remaining evidence is insufficient to compel a finding that he established eligibility for relief. See Wang, 861 F.3d at 1009. His claims therefore were properly denied.1

The petition for review is DENIED.


1.   Because we find the BIA's adverse credibility finding was supported by substantial evidence, we need not consider the BIA's alternative holding, for which the BIA presumed that Zhang was credible.

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