Huo Qiang Chen v. Holder, No. 13-2030 (2d Cir. 2014)Annotate this Case
Petitioner, a Chinese national, sought review of the BIA's decision upholding the IJ's denial of asylum and withholding of removal. The BIA determined that imposition of a fine equal to approximately twenty times petitioner's annual income and, after petitioner left China, further sanction for failure to pay the fine, specifically, termination of his family's farming leasehold, did not establish either past persecution or a well founded fear of future persecution. The court held that while a severe fine can amount to economic persecution, an alien claiming to have suffered past persecution must show more than the imposition of such a fine; he must show that payment of the fine (or efforts to pay or collect it) actually deprived him of the basic necessities of life or reduced him to an impoverished existence. The court clarified that an unpaid fine and sanctions imposed after an alien is already in the United States for nonpayment of a fine may support a well founded fear of future persecution if the alien were returned to his native country. In this case, substantial evidence supports the BIA's finding that petitioner failed to demonstrate that the imposition of a severe fine deprived him of the basic necessities of life or impoverished him before he left China. However, the BIA erred in concluding that no evidence existed of continuing demands for payment while petitioner has been in the United States and reaching other factual conclusions not supported by substantial evidence. Accordingly, the court vacated the BIA's order insofar as it denied petitioner both asylum and withholding of removal. The court remanded for further proceedings, granting review of the BIA's feared future persecution ruling.