INS v. Elias-Zacarias
Annotate this Case
502 U.S. 478 (1992)
OCTOBER TERM, 1991
IMMIGRATION AND NATURALIZATION SERVICE v.
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT
No. 90-1342. Argued November 4, 1991-Decided January 22,1992
Respondent, a native of Guatemala, was apprehended for entering the United States without inspection. In his deportation proceedings, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) determined that he was ineligible for a discretionary grant of asylum. In reversing that determination, the Court of Appeals ruled that a guerrilla organization's acts of conscription constitute persecution on account of political opinion and that respondent therefore had a well-founded fear of such persecution.
Held: A guerrilla organization's attempt to coerce a person into performing military service does not necessarily constitute "persecution on account of ... political opinion" under § 101(a)(42) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U. S. C. § 1101(a)(42). Even one who supports the political aims of a guerrilla movement might resist military combat and thus become the object of such coercion. Moreover, persecution on account of political opinion is not established by the fact that the coercing guerrillas had "political" motives. In order to satisfy § 101(a)(42), the persecution must be on account of the victim's political opinion, not the persecutor's. Since respondent did not produce evidence so compelling that no reasonable factfinder could fail to find the requisite fear of persecution on account of political opinion, the Court of Appeals had no proper basis to set aside the BIA's determination. See 8 U. S. C. § 1l05a(a)(4); NLRB v. Columbian Enameling & Stamping Co., 306 U. S. 292,300. Pp.481-484.
921 F.2d 844, reversed.
SCALIA, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which REHNQUIST, C. J., and WHITE, KENNEDY, SOUTER, and THOMAS, JJ., joined. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BLACKMUN and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined, post, p. 484.
Maureen E. Mahoney argued the cause for petitioner. On the briefs were Solicitor General Starr, Assistant Attorney General Gerson, Acting Deputy Solicitor General Wright, Stephen J. Marzen, and Alice M. King.
James Robertson argued the cause for respondent. With him on the brief were Carol F. Lee and Peter A. Von Mehren.*
JUSTICE SCALIA delivered the opinion of the Court.
The principal question presented by this case is whether a guerrilla organization's attempt to coerce a person into performing military service necessarily constitutes "persecution on account of ... political opinion" under § 101(a)(42) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as added, 94 Stat. 102, 8 U. S. C. § 1l01(a)(42).
Respondent Elias-Zacarias, a native of Guatemala, was apprehended in July 1987 for entering the United States without inspection. In deportation proceedings brought by petitioner Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), Elias-Zacarias conceded his deportability but requested asylum and withholding of deportation.
The Immigration Judge summarized Elias-Zacarias' testi-
mony as follows:
"[A]round the end of January in 1987 [when EliasZacarias was 18], two armed, uniformed guerrillas with handkerchiefs covering part of their faces came to his home. Only he and his parents were there .... [T]he guerrillas asked his parents and himself to join with them, but they all refused. The guerrillas asked them why and told them that they would be back, and that they should think it over about joining them.
*Briefs of amici curiae urging affirmance were filed for the American Immigration Lawyers Association by Kevin R. Johnson, Joshua R. Floum, and Robert Rubin; for the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights et al. by Arthur C. Helton, Q Thomas Johnson, Jr., and Andrew I. Schoenholtz; and for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees by Arthur L. Bentley III and Julian Fleet.
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