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Sama v. U.S. Attorney General

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

April 19, 2018

CHE ERIC SAMA, Petitioner,
v.
U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL, Respondent.

          Petition for Review of a Decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals Agency No. A088-023-457

          Before WILLIAM PRYOR and JULIE CARNES, Circuit Judges, and ANTOON, [*] District Judge.

          WILLIAM PRYOR, Circuit Judge

         This petition for review requires us to decide whether substantial evidence supports the decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals that Che Eric Sama did not suffer past persecution by the Cameroonian police and that he lacked a well-founded fear of future persecution. Sama, a native and citizen of Cameroon, filed the petition to review the denial of his applications for asylum, 8 U.S.C. § 1158, and for withholding of removal under the Immigration and Nationality Act, id.§ 1231(b)(3), and under the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment, 8 C.F.R. § 208.16. Sama contends that the record compels findings that he suffered persecution and that he had a well-founded fear of being singled out for future persecution for associating with two gay friends and posting a message in a university publication condemning the treatment of gay individuals. But we disagree. The Board was entitled to find that any mistreatment that Sama suffered did not rise to the level of persecution, to find that the police investigated his mistreatment, and to rely on country reports published by the State Department that state that conditions in Cameroon are improving for gay individuals. Sama also argues that the Board denied him due process when it weighed his evidence. But due process required only notice and an opportunity to be heard, and Sama received both. We deny Sama's petition for review.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This appeal arises from Che Eric Sama's most recent attempt to enter the United States. He testified that he has applied for various kinds of visas "about five times" and that he "was banned from applying again" because he submitted a bank statement that "was not original." This time, he came to the United States seeking asylum, 8 U.S.C. § 1158, and withholding of removal under the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. § 1231(b)(3), and the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment, 8 C.F.R. § 208.16, after a friend in Nigeria told him that he "could get out of the country and apply for asylum where [he] w[ould] be safe."

         In 2015, Sama posted a message in a university publication in Cameroon "supporting homosexuality and asking for equal rights for homosexuals." He testified that he protested the expulsion of two friends, Fai David and David's partner, and wrote: "They kick them out and they are all created by God. Why, why don't you allow their rights?" In response, the police issued a warrant for Sama's arrest that charged him with "[t]he posting of an article on [g]ay right[s] on the [s]chool [b]oard" and "[c]arrying out [h]omosexual [a]ctivities."

         According to Sama, an "anti-gay group" attacked him at the end of November because he posted "homosexual things." While he was walking home after class, four men pushed him to the ground, "cut [his] neck, " and warned him that he "should stop [his] homosexual activities." The men told him that, "if [he] d[id] [not] stop . . ., they [we]re going to kill [him] next time they s[aw] [him.]"

         Fellow students secured transportation for Sama to a hospital, where he was treated for "[w]ounds and a big cut on [his] neck, " a "[h]ead ache and [s]wollen face, " "[s]erious[] [b]leeding, " and other symptoms of an "assault." While he was being treated, the hospital called the police, who came to the hospital and took a statement from Sama about the attack. Although the warrant for his arrest remained outstanding, the police did not arrest him then. But his attackers were never found, which led Sama to conclude in his application for asylum that "[no] investigation was done."

         On November 25, 2015, the hospital discharged Sama, and he went to live with his cousin "on the outskirts" of town. On December 6, he returned to his mother's house to retrieve some belongings. While he was collecting his things, an unknown individual threw a brick through the window of his room. The brick was inscribed with the message "we don't want gays in our community." Sama did not testify that he reported this incident to the police.

         Two days later, the police attempted to execute the warrant for his arrest at his mother's house. When his mother refused to tell the police where Sama was, they arrested and detained her. She was released after "about two days."

         At some point, news sources reported that David was murdered. According to the news, the police were "making no efforts to find his killers." And Sama speculated that David's partner might have been kidnapped and that "he or his body has not been found."

         On December 7, Sama began his journey to the United States. He first flew to Nigeria, but he left after a friend warned him that he would not be safe there. Sama then traveled to Mexico, where his passport was stolen, and took a bus and a taxi to the United States border. The Department of Homeland Security charged Sama as an alien seeking admission without a valid entry document, see 8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(7)(A)(i)(I), and Sama sought asylum.

         At his removal hearing, Sama introduced evidence to support his claims of persecution. He testified that he left Cameroon because his "life was in danger." He stated that "[t]he police were looking for [him] and the anti-gay group wanted to kill [him] and [he] was not safe at all." He also explained that "homosexuals are treated badly, " "are not recognized by the community, " and "are perceived as evil" in Cameroon. And Sama testified that he is not gay but ...


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