(CN) – The 8th Circuit ordered immigration authorities to revisit whether a political dissident from the Congo will face persecution if returned to his home country.
The federal appeals court in St. Louis agreed with the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) that Noel Malonga, an ethnic Lari and native of the southern Pool region, failed to establish past persecution for his pro-democracy activism.
But the appeals court added that the BIA’s analysis of whether Malonga would face future persecution “troubles us for two reasons.”
“First, we cannot tell from its opinion whether it considered Malonga’s political activities after he left the Congo,” Judge Michael Melloy wrote for the three-judge panel. “Second, we think the BIA’s pattern and practice analysis as to the Lari fails to account for the risks Malonga argues he would face as an actual or imputed political dissident.”
Malonga belonged to several political groups in the Congo and the United States, and said he would suffer persecution because Lari from the Pool region are regarded as anti-government and have ties to the Ninjas, a southern rebel militia group.
The court agreed that the “evidence tends to show, to some degree, the persecution of individuals imputed to be political opponents of the government and its allies.”
“It additionally suggests that individuals like Malonga, particularly in terms of geographic ties, have been labeled as such and persecuted accordingly — even if the evidence does not compel the conclusion that the Lari as a whole face a pattern and practice of persecution,” Melloy wrote.
Malonga claimed that, over the past four decades, he has opposed totalitarian regimes headed by Marien Ngouabi, Pascal Lissouba and Denis Sassou-Nguesso.
In the early 1990s, he joined the Congolese Movement for Democracy and Integral Development. Soldiers of the Lissouba government came looking for him after he participated in an anti-government protest in 1993. He said they marked his house with an “X” and wrote “we will have your skin” on a wall. He claimed that after he left to study in the United States, Lissouba supporters destroyed and looted his home.
In a dissenting opinion, Judge Steven Colloton argued that the court should have thrown out Malonga’s appeal.
“Because the BIA rejected Malonga’s claim for withholding of removal, and described the basis for its decision ‘with such clarity as to be understandable,’ there is no reason for a remand,” Colloton wrote.