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Chandra v. Holder

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

May 12, 2014

CIPTO CHANDRA, Petitioner,
v.
ERIC H. HOLDER, JR., Attorney General, Respondent

Argued and Submitted February 13, 2014

On Petition for Review of an Order of the Board of Immigration Appeals. Agency No. A079-522-209.

Gihan L. Thomas (argued), Law Offices of Gihan Thomas, Los Angeles, California, for Petitioner.

D. Nicholas Harling (argued); Nairi S. Gruzenski, Trial Attorney; Cindy S. Ferrier, Senior Litigation Counsel; Tony West, Assistant Attorney General, Civil Division, United States Department of Justice, Washington, D.C. for Respondent.

Before: Richard A. Paez and Jacqueline H. Nguyen, Circuit Judges, and J. Frederick Motz, Senior District Judge.[*]

OPINION

Page 1035

PAEZ, Circuit Judge:

Petitioner Cipto Chandra (" Chandra" ) petitions for review of the Board of Immigration Appeals' (" BIA" ) denial of his motion to reopen removal proceedings. After Chandra's order of removal became final in 2005, he converted to Christianity. On March 9, 2009, Chandra filed an untimely motion to reopen on the basis that religious persecution against Christians in Indonesia had worsened since his previous hearing. Because the BIA failed to consider Chandra's evidence of changed conditions in Indonesia in light of his conversion to Christianity, we grant the petition and remand for further proceedings.

I.

Chandra, an Indonesian citizen of Chinese descent, entered the United States in 1998 and overstayed his visa. In 2001, after the Department of Homeland Security initiated removal proceedings, Chandra conceded removability and filed an application for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the United Nations Convention Against Torture (" CAT" ) on the ground that he faced persecution in Indonesia because of his Chinese ethnicity. In January 2002, the Immigration Judge (" IJ" ) denied Chandra's application for asylum as untimely, and his application for withholding of removal and CAT protection because he failed to carry his burden for either form of relief. The IJ granted Chandra's application for voluntary departure. In October 2003, the BIA dismissed his appeal. We denied Chandra's petition for review in February 2005. Chandra v. Gonzales, 123 F.Appx. 792 (9th Cir. 2005).

Chandra did not leave the country after his order of removal became final. While remaining in the country, he converted to Christianity and began to attend church on a regular basis. Chandra filed a motion to reopen based on " changed circumstances in Indonesia." His motion referred to " escalated and widespread persecution of Christians by Islamic fundamentalists [and the] Indonesian military, with the tacit cooperation of the Indonesian government." For support, Chandra submitted the 2007 International Religious Freedom Report, prepared by the United States Department of State (" State Department" ), news articles from 2008 reporting on violence perpetrated by Muslims against Christian religious leaders and followers in Indonesia, a 2009 travel warning issued by the State Department cautioning " Americans or other Western citizens and interests" about general terrorist threats in Indonesia, and other materials. Chandra also presented a letter from Tara Ongkowidjojo, the Church Administrator at City Blessing Church in Temple City, California, stating that Chandra " has been regularly attending [] church . . . and attends the Care Cell Fellowship meeting every week."

In December 2009, the BIA denied Chandra's motion. In a brief order, the

Page 1036

BIA cited to 8 C.F.R. ยง 1003.2(c)(3)(ii) and explained that " [c]hanges in the respondent's personal circumstances in the United States do not constitute sufficiently changed circumstances so as to allow for ...


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