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Case Name:
SHAH V INS

Case Number:

Date Filed:

98-70845

08/15/00





FOR PUBLICATION

UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT

VARSHA TUSHAR SHAH; FORUM T.
                                                     No. 98-70845
SHAH; KUNAL T. SHAH,
                                                     INS Nos.
Petitioners,
                                                     A70-945-916
v.
                                                     A70-933-923
IMMIGRATION AND NATURALIZATION
                                                     A70-933-924
SERVICE,
                                                     OPINION
Respondent.

Petition for Review of an Order
of the Board of Immigration Appeals

Argued and Submitted
February 11, 2000--Pasadena, California

Filed August 15, 2000

Before: Harry Pregerson, Warren J. Ferguson, and Kim
McLane Wardlaw, Circuit Judges.

Opinion by Judge Ferguson

_________________________________________________________________


COUNSEL

Garish Sarin, Los Angeles, California, for the petitioners.

Joan E. Smiley, Pauline Terrelonge, United States Department
of Justice, Office of Immigration Litigation, Washington,
D.C., for the respondent.

_________________________________________________________________

OPINION

FERGUSON, Circuit Judge:

Varsha Tushar Shah and her two children, Kunal and
Forum, natives of India, petition for review of the Board of
Immigration Appeals' (BIA) decision dismissing their appeal
from the denial of their applications for asylum and withhold-
ing of deportation. Both the BIA and the Immigration Judge
(IJ) based their denial of the Shahs' application on an adverse
credibility finding. We have jurisdiction pursuant to 8 U.S.C.
S 1105a (1996).1 We conclude that the adverse credibility
determination rests on impermissible grounds. We deem the
petitioners credible, and remand to the BIA.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The following factual background is drawn from the Shahs'
application for asylum, Mrs. Shah's testimony at the asylum
hearing, and the corroborating evidence they submitted. Mrs.
Shah testified that members of the mainly Muslim and ruling
Congress Party (CP) murdered her husband, Tushar Vi Shah,
_________________________________________________________________
1 The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of
1996 ("IIRIRA"), Pub.L. 104-208, 110 Stat. 3009 (Sept. 30, 1996),
repealed this section. Because this case began before April 1, 1997, and
the final order of deportation was issued after October 30, 1996, the transi-
tional rules of IIRIRA apply. See Duarte de Guinac v. INS, 179 F.3d 1156,
1158 n. 2 (9th Cir. 1999).

                               9997


and repeatedly threatened to kill the rest of the immediate
family because of their active involvement in the predomi-
nantly Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Mr. and Mrs. Shah became involved in the BJP in 1984. As
members, they raised funds for the party and organized ral-
lies. Eventually, Mr. Shah became the BJP's paid employee
and was very active in its campaign to win the 1991 election
from the CP.

Members of the CP began to target the Shahs in July of
1991. In the time leading up to the 1991 election, Mr. Shah
was repeatedly arrested, tortured, and ordered to stop working
with the BJP. Although the CP threatened to kill Mr. Shah's
family unless he left the BJP, he refused.

The CP's threats against the Shahs only got worse after the
election. Its members attacked the family's home, leaving
behind a threatening letter. When the Shahs reported the
attack, the police refused to assist them. Ignored by the police,
the Shahs turned to the BJP for protection. On July 7, 1991,
a BJP leader responded in a letter to Mr. Shah's requests for
help. In the letter, which the Shahs submitted as corroborating
evidence, he reports to Mr. Shah that, "[w]e have asked the
congress party to investigate this and are requesting special
protection from police dept. or secret service." But he coun-
sels the Shahs to go into hiding for two to three years until
"there is safety to yourlife [sic] and that of your family." He
adds, the "BJP is really proud of you and thank you for your
support and dedication for the party. Since 1984 we have
received your valuable time and you have dedicated your life
for the spread of our party."

The mounting threats against the Shahs' lives persuaded
Mr. Shah that escaping from India might be necessary. He and
Mrs. Shah applied for visitors' visas from the United States
Embassy, which they received in August of 1991. As Mrs.

                               9998


Shah testified, "he has thought up to obtain a visa and hold
it in case of necessity I can -- I can use it."

The CP murdered Mr. Shah on November 5, 1991. He had
stopped his car at a red light when a truck suddenly smashed
into the rear, killing him. The truck driver fled the scene in a
getaway car. When Mrs. Shah asked the police for a report of
the incident, they refused to give her one because of the fami-
ly's affiliation with the BJP. In a letter to Mrs. Shah, dated
November 21, 1991, which Mrs. Shah submitted as corrobo-
rating evidence, a BJP official wrote, "I think we all know
who is behind this murder" and warned her that,"[y]ou and
kids are the target of these killers and you have to go under-
ground [sic]."

The threats and attacks against the family did not end with
Mr. Shah's murder. The CP repeatedly harassed the children
at school, until they were eventually forced to withdraw.
Members of the CP appeared at the Shahs' house and threw
stones. They called at all hours to threaten the family, warning
Mrs. Shah that, "we have murdered your husband and we'll
murder you and also children."

In fear of their lives, Mrs. Shah and her children abandoned
their home in Ahmadabad. At first, they fled to a city called
Surat in February of 1992, but they stayed only two months
because the CP continued to threaten them. At the urging of
the BJP, Mrs. Shah and her two children escaped from India
altogether, and arrived in Los Angeles as visitors for pleasure
on August 12, 1992.

Mrs. Shah testified that the CP will kill her and her children
if they are forced to return to India. Tensions between Mus-
lims and Hindus, frequently erupting into rioting and blood-
shed, have escalated. People from home have warned Mrs.
Shah against returning. In a letter Mrs. Shah submitted as evi-
dence, dated December 12, 1994, a BJP leader warned her,
"[y]our life or that of children is still in great danger if you

                               9999


decide to come back." He advised her, "[d]o not call your
family members and give your address to anybody. " She and
her children applied for asylum on June 25, 1994. She
explained in her asylum application that, "I being a widow of
BJP worker will face the smae [sic] fate as that of my hus-
band. Moreover I cannot go back to India as we all fear that
we will be killed in India."

In addition to the letters from the BJP, Mrs. Shah intro-
duced several affidavits into evidence to support her claim.
The first affidavit, dated January of 1996, is written by a
friend of Mr. Shah. It corroborates Mrs. Shah's testimony
about the circumstances of her late husband's death stating
that Mr. Shah died "due to rival political party had murdered
him and managed to convert it into accidental death. " The
friend also describes in his affidavit how Mrs. Shah and her
children moved repeatedly after Mr. Shah's death until it
became too dangerous for them to remain in India. The sec-
ond affidavit, written by a close relation of the Shahs, corrob-
orates Mrs. Shah's claim that her late husband was a BJP
employee and that his death was no accident. The affiant fur-
ther writes that Mrs. Shah and her children "are not safe and
it is not advisable for them to stay in India." In another affida-
vit, Mrs. Shah's brother describes how Mr. Shah was mur-
dered for political reasons. He adds that, after the murder, "his
family had a great shock and suffered their life in dangerous
position and they had left their house within short period
. . . ."

Mrs. Shah also introduced her late husband's death certifi-
cate into evidence. It lists the date of his death as November
5, 1991, which is consistent with Mrs. Shah's testimony, the
letters from the BJP, and the affidavits of friends and rela-
tives.

II. IMMIGRATION PROCEEDINGS

The Shahs' asylum hearing was on March 18, 1996. That
day, the IJ issued an oral decision denying the Shahs asylum

                               10000


and withholding of deportation on credibility grounds. He
cited several reasons for deeming the Shahs not credible: (1)
Mrs. Shah's corroborating evidence provided insufficient
detail about the circumstances of Mr. Shah's death and why
she feared returning to India; (2) Mr. Shah's death certificate
listed the date of his death as November 5, 1991, while a
stamp on the same document contained a date of April 1,
1991; (3) Mrs. Shah failed to adequately explain why the
death certificate did not list the cause of Mr. Shah's death and
why she did not present another death certificate which
would; (4) the fact that the couple's passports listed Mr. and
Mrs. Shahs' occupations as accountant and housekeeper
respectively and not as political workers; (5) insufficient evi-
dence of her involvement in the BJP and of the harm she
would suffer in India; and (6) an inconsistency between her
claim that she would suffer persecution in India as a BJP
member and assertions in a State Department country report
on India stating that the "BJP's many electoral successes belie
the assertion that it is not possible for a BJP member to live
peaceably in India. Nor is it credible to allege that . . . the
Government systematically persecutes BJP members."

The BIA agreed with the IJ that the Shahs were not credible
and it dismissed their appeal on this ground alone. It adopted
only three of the six reasons the IJ used to deem them not
credible: (1) its observation that the death certificate con-
tained two separate dates; (2) the fact that Mr. Shah's passport
identified him as an accountant, rather than a BJP employee;
(3) and the State Department's suggestion that a BJP member
who claimed that he could not live peaceably in India was not
credible. The BIA then added four new bases for its adverse
credibility holding: (1) Mrs. Shah's failure to explain why she
did not provide the IJ with the records on which the death cer-
tificate was based; (2) her failure to authenticate letters from
BJP leaders; (3) its belief that it "is unbelievable" that Mr.
Shah could have worked for the BJP for more than ten years
given the small number of letters the Shahs received; and (4)
her failure to present more documentation given her claim

                               10001


that her husband was a BJP employee. Reasoning that its find-
ing of adverse credibility "is dispositive for purposes of eligi-
bility," the BIA did not determine whether the Shahs'
evidence, if believed, could meet the asylum standard.

III. DISCUSSION

A. The BIA's Adverse Credibility Determination

[1] We must uphold the BIA's denial of asylum if it is sup-
ported by reasonable, substantial evidence in the record. INS
v. Elias-Zacarias, 502 U.S. 478, 481 (1992). The BIA's credi-
bility findings are reviewed under the same substantial evi-
dence standard. See Garrovillas v. INS, 156 F.3d 1010, 1013
(9th Cir. 1997). Although this standard is deferential, "[t]he
BIA must have `a legitimate articulable basis to question the
petitioner's credibility, and must offer a specific, cogent rea-
son for any stated disbelief.' " Id. (quoting Osorio v. INS, 99
F.3d 928, 931 (9th Cir. 1996)). The reasons also "must be
substantial and bear a legitimate nexus to the finding" that the
petitioner is not credible. Osorio, 99 F.3d at 931 (internal
quotation marks omitted). Where, as here, "the BIA reviews
the IJ's decision de novo, our review is limited to the BIA's
decision, except to the extent that the IJ's opinion is expressly
adopted." Cordon-Garcia v. INS, 204 F.3d 985, 990 (9th Cir.
2000).

1. The Discrepancy Between the Death Certificate's Offi-
      cial Date Stamp and the Date Mrs. Shah Testified Mr.
      Shah Died.

[2] The BIA based an adverse credibility finding on its
observation "that the death certificate contains a date incon-
sistent with the date claimed by the adult female respondent
as the date of her husband's death." Specifically, the BIA
pointed to the fact that there are two different dates on the
death certificate Mrs. Shah offered as corroborating evidence.
Although it is true that the official stamp on the certificate is

                               10002


marked with the date of April 1, 1991, the date of Mr. Shah's
death, which is listed as November 5, 1991, fully comports
with Mrs. Shah's testimony and the rest of her corroborating
evidence. It is well-established that, "minor discrepancies in
dates that are attributable to . . . typographical errors" cannot
properly serve as the basis for an adverse credibility finding.
Damaize-Job v. INS, 787 F.2d 1332, 1337 (9th Cir. 1986).
There are any of number of reasons to account for the fact that
the stamp on the death certificate pre-dates that listed as Mr.
Shah's death. A clerk in the Indian bureaucracy may, for
instance, have failed to change the date on the stamp. Alterna-
tively, the certificate may have been pre-stamped in the month
of April. Since the discrepancy is capable of being attributed
to a typographical or clerical error, it cannot form the basis of
an adverse credibility finding.

[3] In addition, we will not uphold an adverse credibility
finding unless the IJ or BIA specifically explains the signifi-
cance of the discrepancy or points to the petitioner's obvious
evasiveness when asked about it. If discrepancies "cannot be
viewed as attempts by the applicant to enhance his claims of
persecution, [they] have no bearing on credibility." Id.; see
also Vilorio-Lopez v. INS, 852 F.2d 1137, 1142 (9th Cir.
1988) ("Minor inconsistencies in the record such as discrep-
ancies in dates which reveal nothing about an asylum appli-
cant's fear for his safety are not an adequate basis for an
adverse credibility finding.") (citation omitted). In Vilorio-
Lopez, we reversed the BIA's adverse credibility finding
where it rested on several inconsistencies because"[w]ithout
more specific direction and in the absence of obvious evasive-
ness, we are unable to say the IJ's adverse credibility finding
is supported by substantial evidence." Vilorio-Lopez, 852 F.2d
at 1142. Similarly, in Damaize-Job, 787 F.2d at 1337, we
reversed an adverse credibility finding that rested on an
inconsistency between the petitioner's application and his tes-
timony relating to his children's birthdates because, "[t]he IJ
nowhere explained how these inaccuracies reflected on the
credibility of his persecution claims or for what possible rea-

                               10003


son Damaize would intentionally have provided incorrect
information on such trivial points."

[4] We conclude that the discrepancy in Mr. Shah's death
certificate is not a proper basis for an adverse credibility find-
ing in this case. When the IJ asked Mrs. Shah about the two
dates, she responded simply that she did not know why the
stamp listed an earlier date than the date of her husband's
death. Given that Mrs. Shah was not obviously evasive when
she was asked to explain the discrepancy, we will not uphold
an adverse credibility finding that rests on this basis "without
`specific direction' to any evasiveness in the record." Vilorio-
Lopez, 852 F.2d at 1142. Like the IJ in Damaize-Job, more-
over, the IJ gave no specific indication as to why the discrep-
ancy is significant. In fact, neither the IJ nor the BIA
explained why Mrs. Shah would lie about the date on which
Mr. Shah was killed. We cannot affirm the credibility deter-
mination on this basis.

2. Mr. Shah's Occupation as a "Chartered Accountant" on
      His Passport.

[5] The BIA rested its adverse credibility finding on the
observation that, "although the adult female respondent
claimed that her husband was employed full-time for the BJP
Party, her husband's passport indicated that he was a char-
tered accountant." We do not agree that there is an inconsis-
tency here. Asked at the asylum hearing why the passport did
not state that he worked for the BJP, Mrs. Shah responded,
"[h]e used to work as a chartered accountant prior to 1984."
That Mr. Shah was a chartered accountant in 1984, and listed
as one in his passport, does not preclude his having been a
BJP member and employee afterward. Moreover, Mrs. Shah
testified that her husband raised funds for the BJP, which is
wholly consistent with his having been an accountant. The
BIA's determination that there was an inconsistency is unsup-
ported by the record.

                               10004


3. The BIA's Use of the State Department's Report to
      Find the Shahs Not Credible.

The BIA relied on a statement in a State Department Report
to deem the Shahs not credible. The State Department's report
on India included the following sentence: "The BJP's many
electoral successes belie the assertion that it is not possible for
a BJP member to live peaceably in India." The BIA held that
the Shahs' claim -- that they faced persecution in India as
BJP members -- conflicted with this sentence in the State
Department report. It deemed them not credible on this basis.

[6] The BIA erred in basing its adverse credibility finding
on the State Department's belief that BJP members will live
in peace because of their party's recent electoral advances for
several reasons. First, we have noted in a related context that,
"[w]here an applicant has shown past persecution, evidence
that individuals can live peacefully in some parts of appli-
cant's home country has no bearing on the applicant's eligi-
bility for asylum or withholding of deportation. " Singh v.
Ilchert, 69 F.3d 375, 380 (9th Cir. 1995). Thus, we have
"found the DOS [Department of State] opinion to be irrele-
vant in cases where individuals have experienced actual per-
secution by the government." Id. By the same token, it is not
a "substantial, cogent reason" to discredit the petitioner's tes-
timony of past persecution based on a report describing a gen-
eral condition of peace in society.

[7] Second, we have repeatedly held that it is error to rest
a decision denying asylum on speculation and conjecture. See
Maini v. INS, 212 F.3d 1167, 1175 (9th Cir. 2000)
("[C]onjecture and speculation can never replace substantial
evidence."); Cordon-Garcia, 204 F.3d at 993; Lopez-Reyes v.
INS, 79 F.3d 908, 912 (9th Cir. 1996). The State Depart-
ment's assertion that, "[t]he BJP's many electoral successes
belie the assertion that it is not possible for a BJP member to
live peaceably in India" amounts to nothing more than that
office's speculation about the effect the BJP's electoral gains

                               10005


will have on existing political persecution. We will not permit
the BIA to use either its own or the State Department's con-
jecture to deem a person not credible. "Because conjecture is
not a substitute for substantial evidence, we cannot uphold
this finding." Lopez-Reyes, 79 F.3d at 912 (citation omitted).

[8] Moreover, by relying exclusively on a blanket statement
in a State Department report, the BIA and the IJ failed to
make the individualized analysis of an applicant's credibility
that our case law mandates. It is well-established that "[t]he
BIA must have `a legitimate articulable basis to question the
petitioner's credibility, and must offer a specific, cogent rea-
son for any stated disbelief.' " Garrovillas, 156 F.3d at 1013
(quoting Osorio, 99 F.3d at 931). Indeed,"[g]eneralized state-
ments that do not identify specific examples of evasiveness or
contradiction in the petitioner's testimony prevent us from
conducting a proper review." Id. As the Seventh Circuit
recently recognized in Galina v. INS, 213 F.3d 955, 959 (7th
Cir. 2000), "the [State Department] reports are brief and gen-
eral, and may fail to identify specific, perhaps local, dangers
to particular, perhaps obscure, individuals." The rule requiring
an individualized adverse credibility determination is, of
course, not satisfied when the IJ or BIA rely on descriptions
about the circumstances people like the applicant have faced,
or will face, in their countries of origin.

[9] Finally, it was improper for the BIA to rely on the State
Department's opinion in finding the Shahs not credible "be-
cause it is the Attorney General, not the Secretary of State,
whom Congress has entrusted with the authority to grant asy-
lum and because `there is perennial concern that the [State]
Department soft-pedals human rights violations by countries
that the United States wants to have good relations with.' "
Gailius v. INS, 147 F.3d 34, 46 (1st Cir. 1998) (quoting Gra-
matikov v. INS, 128 F.3d 619, 620 (7th Cir. 1997)) (alteration
in original)); see also Galina, 213 F.3d at 958 ("The Board
ought by this time to realize, moreover, that in the case of
countries that are friendly to the United States, such as Latvia,

                               10006


the State Department's natural inclination is to look on the
bright side."). In short, the BIA erred in relying on a factually
unsupported assertion in a State Department report to deem
the Shahs not credible.2

4. Mrs. Shah's Failure to Corroborate Her Husband's
      Death Certificate with the Underlying Documents.

[10] The BIA impermissibly relied on Mrs. Shah's failure
to introduce the records underlying her husband's death certif-
icate to deem the petitioners not credible. It wrote, "if, as the
adult female respondent claimed, the death certificate was an
`abstract of records,' she has not explained why she did not
attempt to provide the records on which this certificate was
based. The circumstances surrounding her husband's death
were the most significant evidence the adult female respon-
dent could provide. Yet the document in question sheds no
light on the circumstances of his death."

[11] Mrs. Shah's failure to present more documentation
relating to her husband's death, or to explain why she did not,
was an impermissible basis for an adverse credibility determi-
nation for several reasons. First, "corroborative evidence is
not necessary for a petitioner to establish past persecution."
Garrovillas, 156 F.3d at 1016. Similarly, "we do not require
that an alien produce independent evidence of a specific threat
to his life." Mejia-Paiz v. INS, 111 F.3d 720, 722 n. 1 (9th
Cir. 1997). This is because, "an authentic refugee is often lim-
ited in his ability to offer direct corroboration of specific inci-
dents of persecution." Id.; see also Lopez-Reyes, 79 F.3d at
912 ("Requiring an applicant to present corroborating evi-
_________________________________________________________________
2 We recognize that in Duarte de Guinac, 179 F.3d at 1162 (emphasis
added), we stated that "the purpose of country conditions evidence . . . is
to provide information about the context in which the alleged persecution
took place, in order that the factfinder may intelligently evaluate the peti-
tioner's credibility." The State Department's country report in this case
does not contain any facts which provide a "specific, cogent reason" for
disbelieving the petitioners. Garrovillas, 156 F.3d at 1013.

                               10007


dence would make it close to impossible for any political ref-
ugee to make out a . . . case for asylum.") (internal quotation
marks omitted) (alteration in original) (brackets omitted);
Aguilera-Cota v. INS, 914 F.2d 1375, 1380 (9th Cir. 1990)
("[R]efugees sometimes are in no position to gather documen-
tary evidence establishing specific or individual persecution
or a threat of persecution.") (internal quotation marks omit-
ted). The record indicates that Mrs. Shah fled India because
of repeated threats to her and her children's lives. The record
does not indicate whether it would have been possible for her
to obtain more documentation relating to her husband's death.
As explained above, the BIA's adverse credibility finding
must be supported by substantial evidence. See Garrovillas,
156 F.3d at 1013. In the absence of substantial evidence
showing that such documentation was "easily available," we
hold that the BIA impermissibly based an adverse credibility
finding on Mrs. Shah's failure to come forward with more
corroborating evidence. Sidhu v. INS, _______ F.3d _______, (9th Cir.
2000).

Moreover, as we recognized in Akinmade v. INS , 196 F.3d
951, 956 (9th Cir. 1999) (internal quotation marks omitted),
the fact that an applicant's evidence "is not as complete as
might be desired cannot, without more, properly serve as a
basis for a finding of lack of credibility." Here, Mrs. Shah
submitted evidence relating to her husband's death. That it did
not contain as much information as the IJ and BIA would
have preferred cannot, standing alone, form the basis of an
adverse credibility finding. In sum, the BIA erred in finding
that the Shahs were not credible based on their failure to offer
the documents underlying Mr. Shah's death certificate.

5. Mrs. Shah's Failure to Authenticate the Letters She
      Submitted.

[12] The BIA impermissibly grounded its adverse credibil-
ity finding on its observation that "none of these letters [the
Shahs submitted] has been authenticated. There is no indica-

                               10008


tion that the letters were actually written by BJP members, or
whether they are forged. We note, moreover, that the docu-
ments appear to have been manufactured specifically to sup-
port an asylum claim."

[13] The BIA's suggestion that the letters the Shahs sub-
mitted as evidence are unreliable or forgeries is an impermis-
sible basis for deeming them not credible. There is no
evidence in the record to indicate that the letters are anything
but what a BJP member would receive from the party's lead-
ership. There is certainly no evidence in the record to support
the BIA's apparent belief that the letters are unreliable or
forged. The BIA's belief to the contrary amounts to nothing
more than its subjective view of what a letter from a BJP
leader to a BJP member would look like. We cannot uphold
an adverse credibility finding that rests on conjecture and
speculation. Lopez-Reyes, 79 F.3d at 912.

6. The Fact that Mrs. Shah Only Had the Letters She
      Submitted As Evidence In Her Possession.

It was improper for the BIA to conclude that the Shahs
were not credible because "[i]t is unbelievable that the adult
female respondent's husband would have worked for the BJP
for more than 10 years before his death, yet these were the
only pieces of correspondence received by the respondents."
Speculation and conjecture cannot form the basis of an
adverse credibility finding, which must instead be based on
substantial evidence. See, e.g., Akinmade, 196 F.3d at 957;
Lopez-Reyes, 79 F.3d at 912. In Lopez-Reyes , we reversed the
IJ's adverse credibility finding because it rested on conjec-
ture. The IJ in that case "found it `astonishing' that `after
being chased by guerillas, shot at by guerillas, and beaten by
the same guerillas,' Lopez was not then killed." Lopez-Reyes,
79 F.3d at 912. We recognized that this assertion rested on
"personal conjecture about what guerrillas likely would and
would not do" and thus concluded that it was an impermissi-
ble basis for an adverse credibility finding. Id.

                               10009


[14] The BIA's adverse credibility finding in this case simi-
larly rests on conjecture and speculation, and we therefore
cannot uphold it. Nowhere in the BIA's opinion does it cite
to evidence indicating how many letters a member ought to
receive from the BJP. In fact, the assertion that Mrs. Shah did
not have a sufficient number is based on the BIA's conjecture
about how many letters the BJP would send a decade-long
member like Mr. Shah. We will not uphold an adverse credi-
bility finding that rests on a speculative ground.

7. Mrs. Shah's Failure to Present Other Documentation to
      Support Her Claim.

[15] Finally, the BIA's assertion that Mrs. Shah "should
have been able to present other documentation to support her
claims" since her husband was a member for ten years is an
impermissible ground for an adverse credibility finding. First,
it is based on speculation and conjecture that people who have
been BJP members for as long as Mr. Shah would have the
documentation to prove it. As we explain above, conjecture
and speculation cannot serve as a reason for an adverse credi-
bility finding. Akinmade, 196 F.3d at 957. Second, as we also
describe above, we do not require petitioners like Mrs. Shah
and her children, who flee their persecutors and seek refuge
in this country, to provide more evidence to buttress their
claims since "[a]uthentic refugees rarely are able to offer
direct corroboration of specific threats or specific incidents of
persecution." Turcios v. INS, 821 F.2d 1396, 1402 (9th Cir.
1987) (citations omitted). There is no evidence, let alone sub-
stantial evidence, in the record that would indicate that any
such evidence was available to Mrs. Shah.

In sum, we reverse the BIA's adverse credibility determina-
tion because it rests on impermissible grounds. Contrary to
the BIA's determination, Mrs. Shah's testimony was not only
internally consistent, but also comported with her asylum
application and the documents she submitted as corroboration.
We instead deem Mrs. Shah's testimony credible, as we have

                               10010


done in similar cases. See, e.g., Akinmade, 196 F.3d at 958;
Aguilera-Cota, 914 F.2d at 1383.

B. The Shahs Suffered Persecution on Account of a Political
      Opinion

[16] Having concluded that the petitioners are credible, we
are compelled to find that they suffered past persecution on
account of a protected ground. Elias-Zacarias , 502 U.S. at
481; Navas v. INS, 2000 WL 780997, * 9 (9th Cir. June 20,
2000) ("In general, we do not remand a matter to the BIA if,
on the record before us, it is clear that we would be compelled
to reverse its decision if it had decided the matter against the
applicant."). "The determination that actions rise to the level
of persecution is very fact-dependent, though threats of vio-
lence and death are enough." Cordon-Garcia v. INS, 204 F.3d
at 991 (citation omitted). Mrs. Shah testified that CP members
killed her husband and repeatedly threatened her and her fam-
ily, all because they were affiliated with the BJP. We have
found petitioners eligible for asylum in similar cases, and we
do so again here. See, e.g., Akinmade , 196 F.3d at 958; Reyes-
Guerrero v. INS, 192 F.3d 1241, 1245-46 (9th Cir. 1999)
(holding that threats against the petitioner because of percep-
tion that he caused damage to political cause amounted to past
persecution on account of a political opinion); Briones v. INS,
175 F.3d 727, 728 (9th Cir. 1999) (en banc) (concluding that
petitioner suffered persecution on account of a political opin-
ion where he was placed on an assassination list and sent a
death threat); Vera-Valera v. INS, 147 F.3d 1036, 1039 (9th
Cir. 1998) (holding that death threats from guerrillas in Peru
constituted persecution on account of a protected ground).

C. Well-Founded Fear of Persecution

[17] Although the Shahs are entitled to a rebuttable pre-
sumption of a well-founded fear of future persecution because
they have shown past persecution, see 8 C.F.R.
S 208.13(b)(1)(i); Singh v. INS, 94 F.3d 1353, 1360-61 (9th

                               10011


Cir. 1996), we conclude that the Shahs have directly proven
by compelling evidence that they have a well-founded fear of
persecution. Navas, 2000 WL 780997, *9. The murder of Mr.
Shah, and repeated threats against the rest of the family both
before and afterward, are sufficient to establish that their fear
is well-founded. See  Gonzalez v. INS , 82 F.3d 903, 909-10
(9th Cir. 1996) ("The violence actually committed against
other members of Mrs. Gallegos's family, and repetition of
threats to her, made her fear of violence well founded.");
Hernandez-Ortiz v. INS, 777 F.2d 509, 515 (9th Cir. 1985)
(concluding that petitioner's fear was well founded where per-
secutors committed violence against family members).

D. Withholding of Deportation

[18] We must withhold the Shahs' deportation if they have
established a "clear probability of persecution. " Duarte de
Guinac, 179 F.3d at 1164. They are entitled to a rebuttable
presumption of entitlement to withholding of deportation if
they show past persecution which threatened their lives or
freedom. Id.; see also Surita v. INS, 95 F.3d 814, 821 (9th Cir.
1996). "To rebut this presumption, the INS must show by a
preponderance of the evidence that the conditions in India
have changed to such an extent that it is no longer more likely
than not that they would face persecution there. " Maini, 212
F.3d at 1178. The IJ entered into evidence only three pages
of the State Department's country conditions report. Under
the heading "Muslim-Hindu communal strife," the pages
describe a massacre in the early 1990s and some of the elec-
toral changes in India. They do not, however, give us any
indication about whether the Shahs will likely face persecu-
tion should we force them to return to India. "Where, as here,
we conclude that past persecution has been established, but
the INS has failed to introduce the requisite country condi-
tions information and thus has failed to meet its evidentiary
burden on that issue, we do not remand, because the ultimate
outcome is clear." Navas v. INS, 2000 WL 780997, *10 (9th
Cir. June 20, 2000); see also Ladha v. INS, 2000 WL 867980,

                               10012


*10 (9th Cir. June 30, 2000) (considering whether the evi-
dence currently in the record compels a finding that a pre-
sumption of eligibility for asylum has not been rebutted).
Neither these pages, nor any other evidence in the record, is
sufficient to rebut the presumption and we therefore conclude
that the Shahs are entitled to withholding of deportation.

Petition for review GRANTED; REMANDED for the
Attorney General to exercise her discretion with respect to the
asylum claim, and for the grant of withholding of deportation.

                               10013


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