Rivas-Pena v. Sessions, No. 18-1183 (7th Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
Rivas-Pena, now 44 years old, entered the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident in 1996. He was convicted of drug-related crimes in 1997 and 2017. For the 2017 conviction for possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, he was sentenced to eight years in prison. He was released on parole the same day that he was sentenced because he had accumulated substantial good-time credit during three and a half years of pretrial detention. Charged with removability based on his convictions for a controlled substance offense, 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(B)(i), and an aggravated felony, section 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii), Rivas-Pena applied for deferral of removal under the Convention Against Torture, 8 C.F.R. 1208.17 based on his fear of torture by Los Zetas cartel. Rivas-Pena estimates that he “owes” the cartel $500,000 because of the seizure of cartel contraband from his garage and fears that cartel members will infer from his "lenient sentence" that he cooperated with authorities. The IJ denied Rivas-Pena’s application, finding Rivas-Pena’s fears “speculative” because no cartel member has attempted to harm Rivas-Pena or his family. The Seventh Circuit granted a petition for review and remanded because neither the immigration judge nor the BIA articulated any basis for disagreeing with an expert opinion that corroborates Rivas-Pena’s fear of torture.