Torres v. Mukasey

551 F.3d 616 (7th Cir. 2008)


Torres (P), a native and citizen of Honduras, seeks asylum. P's four older brothers were conscripted into the Honduran navy. Each of the four older sons endured brutal mistreatment at the hands of his superiors. Three of the four ultimately deserted the navy to escape these abuses. Two of the brothers, Mario and Luis, live secretly in Honduras, afraid of military retribution for their family's history. Gerardo and Juan Carlos both escaped to the United States. Gerardo was granted asylum in 1994 and died one year later, at the age of twenty-five, from brain cancer. Juan Carlos was granted asylum in 1995 and is now a United States citizen. He resides in Elkhart, Indiana, near two of his sisters, both of whom are legal permanent residents. The Flores Torres clan is known as a family of deserters. P was the first son punished by the military in retribution for his brothers' exploits. Pedro claimed that he was subjected almost immediately to physical and mental abuse from his superiors-mistreatment above and beyond anything suffered by other soldiers. P mounted two unsuccessful escape attempts during his first six months of service. Following the second attempt, Pedro was stripped of his clothing and locked in solitary confinement, in 'the hole.' The 'hole' was a darkened room measuring one meter on all sides, the hole provided no space for its captive to lie down. There was little ventilation, and the heat was intense. P was forced to use the hole to relieve himself. For forty days, P remained trapped, nude, in his own excrement; the stench was overwhelming. During those forty days, P was given beans and tortillas once a day, as well as two small servings of water. When he finally emerged, P had lost forty pounds, one-third of his body weight. P eventually succeeded in escaping during a military celebration. These incidents were document in his written request for asylum. During his testimony before the immigration judge, P discussed several additional examples of abuse for the first time. The IJ held three hearings playing an active role in the process even interjecting himself into the testimony. The IJ stated that P’s testimony lacked credibility and refused asylum. The Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed, and this appeal resulted.