The Seventh Circuit has sustained the appeal of a petitioner for protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT) involved in drug trafficking, who feared reprisals from the Zetas for the drugs seized by the police. “The parties agree that a fugitive Los Zetas leader warned Rivas-Pena that he would be responsible if anything happened to the contraband and that ‘several hundred thousand dollars,’ in Dr. Jones’s expert opinion, “‘s not an amount the Zetas will forgive and forget.’ Given these facts—and Dr. Jones’s additional unchallenged opinion that Rivas-Pena faces ‘a very high to near certainty [] of being tortured and killed if deported to Mexico’—a reasonable factfinder would not dismiss as merely ‘speculative’ Rivas-Pena’s fear of harm by Los Zetas.”

“The only explanation the Board and the judge gave for dismissing Rivas-Pena’s fears as ‘speculative; was that neither Rivas-Pena nor his family have been ‘tortured, harmed, threatened, or even inquired after’ by Los Zetas since 2013. That explanation from the Board and the judge fails to engage with why Rivas-Pena has had no recent contact with Los Zetas: he has been in jail or federal immigration custody in the United States ever since he incurred his ‘debt’ to the cartel in 2013. While it is conceivable that the cartel has members who are detained in the United States, it is not surprising that the cartel would bide its time until Rivas-Pena is no longer protected by American authorities.”

The full text of Rivas-Pena v. Sessions can be found here: