The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the denial of a Bosnian couple’s claim that they had a credible fear of persecution if they returned to their native homeland. Hazret and Jasminka Nanic entered the U.S. in November of 2006. Customs gave them until June 8, 2007 to depart the U.S. They did not leave; instead, they filed asylum petitions on June 13, 2007. The couple also requested the discretionary relief of withholding of removal, as well as protection under the Convention Against Torture (“CAT”). The asylum office denied the claim and referred the case to the immigration court.
In asylum cases, one of the strongest pieces of evidence of future persecution is, in fact, instances of prior persecution. The Nanics told the immigration judge about being harassed by a police officer in 1994, being hit by the police in 1996 and some harassment that their daughters had suffered in 1996. The immigration judge did not find these decade old, relatively minor instances to constitute past persecution. The asylum, withholding and CAT claims were denied.
The Board of Immigration Appeals upheld the denial and the Nanics appealed to the Eighth Circuit in St. Louis. As it turns out, the Eighth Circuit is one of the least immigrant-friendly courts in the entire nation. The Court very rarely rules in favor of the immigrant and against the Department of Homeland Security. True to form, the Court denied the claims and upheld the decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals. In doing so, the Court agreed with the lower court findings that the past harassment did not constitute persecution. The Court also rejected the Nanics’ claim that they faced persecution for yet another reason – their refusal to identify as a Serb, Croat or Muslim and to instead state their support for a unified Bosnia.
This was a tough case. Life in Bosnia has returned to some semblance of normality since the brutal civil war of the late 1990s. It seems that this case had very little chance of success, given the thin evidence of harassment that the couple provided. It also highlights just how hard it is for immigrants to succeed at the Eighth Circuit.