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Agha v. Holder

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

February 19, 2014

Walled Mazin Agha; Gina Magigi Agha, Petitioners
v.
Eric H. Holder, Jr., Attorney General of the United States, Respondent

Submitted January 13, 2014.

Page 610

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 611

Petition for Review of an Order of the Board of Immigration Appeals.

For Walled Mazin Agha, Gina Magigi Agha, Petitioners: Timothy E. Wichmer, WICHMER & GRONECK, Saint Louis, MO.

For Eric H. Holder, Jr., Attorney General of the United States, Respondent: Karen Yolanda Drummond, Richard M. Evans, Assistant Director, Elizabeth D. Kurlan, Trial Attorney, Joseph Anthony O'Connell, Christina Bechak Parascandola, Trial Attorney, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Civil Division, Office of Immigration Litigation, Washington, DC.

Before WOLLMAN and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges, and WEBBER,[1] District Judge.

OPINION

Page 612

WEBBER, District Judge.

Walled Mazin Agha (Agha) and his wife, Gina Magigi Agha,[2] petition for review of an order of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), which affirmed the denial of Agha's application for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). We deny the petition.

I.

Agha, a man of Palestinian origin, was born in Lebanon in 1973 after his family fled Palestine in 1948. He came to the United States in December 1998 on a visitor visa, with permission to stay until June 28, 1999. Agha remained in the United States beyond the authorized time, and on July 9, 2003, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a Notice to Appear, commencing removal proceedings against him. Agha sought relief in the form of asylum, withholding of removal, and CAT protection.[3]

In his asylum statement, Agha averred he is not a citizen of Lebanon, and, although he received a Lebanese travel document for Palestinian refugees, he has never used it. He stated civil war broke out in Lebanon a few years after his birth, and his family therefore fled to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where he lived comfortably for most of his life, except when traveling to pursue his education. Agha further contended, in 1997, his father became involved in a business dispute between a Canadian company and a UAE Sheikh, who was also the son of the Crown Prince. Agha maintained his father went to Canada to sue the Canadian company in December 1998; the Canadian company then approached the Sheikh, informing him that Agha's father was " ruining" the Sheikh's reputation with the lawsuit. Agha alleged the Sheikh then confronted his father's business partner, Naser Al Shamsi, who also happened to be the head of the UAE's secret services, and demanded Al Shamsi arrest Agha's father if he returned to the country. Al Shamsi apprised Agha's mother of this situation, and Agha and his family immediately fled Abu Dhabi for Dubai.

Agha used an Indian passport to travel from Dubai to the United States. Throughout his removal proceedings, Agha denied he has Indian citizenship, stated he

Page 613

has never been to India, and maintained his father unlawfully obtained this passport from a friend who was an Indian ambassador. Agha claimed he is considered stateless everywhere in the world.

Agha's asylum application was referred to the Immigration Court, where Dr. Victor T. LeVine, a professor of political science at Washington University in Saint Louis, testified regarding possible harm Agha would face in Lebanon and other places in the Middle East, as well as his prospect of being accepted into various countries designated for removal. Dr. LeVine also opined the business dispute involving the Sheikh would render return to the UAE dangerous for Agha. When Agha began to testify regarding his father's business dispute in the UAE, counsel for the DHS objected on the basis of relevance. The Immigration Judge, John Duck, then stated, " You're starting to show you can't return to the United Arab Emirates. You so stipulate. That's out," to ...


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