INS v. Elias-Zacarias, 502 U.S. 478 (1992)

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478

OCTOBER TERM, 1991

Syllabus

IMMIGRATION AND NATURALIZATION SERVICE v. ELIAS-ZACARIAS

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. 1105a(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.

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