Sathanthrasa v. Attorney General United States, No. 18-2925 (3d Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
Sathanthrasa is a citizen of Sri Lanka and a Tamil, an ethnic minority group that has been persecuted by government forces and the paramilitary Karuna Group. In 2007, Sathanthrasa’s brothers were kidnapped. Sathanthrasa reported the kidnappings to the Human Rights Commission without ascribing blame to the Karuna Group. The Karuna Group abducted and beat him; he suffered “internal injur[ies].” Days later, his father was beaten by men looking for Sathanthrasa, who fled but was picked up by armed officers, detained, and interrogated. Over the next six years, kidnappings remained commonplace. While acquiring the funds needed to leave, Sathanthrasa lived openly with his wife and children. Upon entering the U.S., Sathanthrasa sought asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture.
An IJ granted Sathanthrasa withholding of removal, citing the likelihood that Sathanthrasa would be “tortured or persecuted” if he returned to Sri Lanka but denied Sathanthrasa’s petition for asylum “as a matter of discretion,” stating that Sathanthrasa’s history did not amount to past persecution and that Sathanthrasa's explanation for the delay was “unpersuasive.” Only asylum provides a pathway to legal permanent resident status and a basis to petition for admission of family members. The Third Circuit vacated. When a petitioner is denied asylum but granted withholding, the denial of asylum “shall be reconsidered,” and the IJ must consider the “reasons for the denial” and “reasonable alternatives available” to the petitioner for family reunification, 8 C.F.R. 1208.16(e). The IJ failed to consider those factors, thereby abusing his discretion.