Rodriguez-Molinero v. Lynch

808 F.3d 1134 (7th Cir. 2015)
Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals
Precedential Case*

On December 17, 2015 the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals (“7th Circuit”) rendered a precedential decision aimed to protect the rights of non-citizens seeking protection under the U.N. Convention Against Torture (“CAT”) and, in this case, a Mexican national.

Chicago Immigration Advocates Law Offices, through Attorney Carla I. Espinoza, represented Mr. Rodriguez-Molinero before the Immigration Courts as well as at the Court of Appeals on a Petition for Review. Mr. Rodriguez-Molinero was seeking protection under CAT to avoid certain death if he were removed to Mexico. While in removal proceedings the Immigration Court found that Mr. Rodriguez-Molinero suffered past torture by the Zetas, the most powerful Mexican cartel, that Mr. Rodriguez-Molinero owed this cartel a substantial drug debt, and that he had given information about this cartel to American law enforcement authorities, yet the Immigration Court still denied him CAT protection. The Petition for Review prepared by Ms. Espinoza argued that the denial of CAT protection was predicated on a misapplication of the law surrounding the principle of official acquiescence to the torture and misapplication of the legal standard to evaluating the evidence.

More specifically, Ms. Espinoza persuaded the 7th Circuit that: (1) the “more likely than not” burden of proof should not be interpreted literally to require a numerical probability of torture, but rather should be interpreted as a “substantial risk” that the torture will occur if the non-citizen is removed; (2) the law surrounding official acquiescence or consent requires only that a single public official, and not the entire Mexican government, consent in torture; and (3) any unsuccessful efforts by the Mexican government to combat the cartels should not be construed to impact the unlikelihood of torture.

“it is success rather that effort that bears on the likelihood of the petitioner’s being killed or torture if removed to Mexico.”

*The case is, first, a published decision (many decisions of the court are not important enough to be published), and, second, its statement of the law is so important that future parties rely upon it in their arguments in their cases before the courts.