"[A] report from the State Department is usually the best available source of information on country conditions," pursuant to Xiao Ji Chen v. U.S. Department of Justice, a 2006 decision of the 2nd Circuit. The petitioner, a citizen of Guatemala, applied for asylum, withholding of removal and relief under the Convention Against Torture and the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act. Hartford Immigration Judge Michael Straus denied his application, and the Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed. The petitioner argued that because he was forced to serve in the army and deserted, he suffered past persecution and likely would be singled out for persecution or torture, if he returned to Guatemala. There was no evidence that the petitioner was asked to commit human rights abuses against members of his own race, religion or nationality. The petitioner admitted that he received the same treatment as fellow soldiers when he served. State department reports do not indicate that army deserters are targeted for persecution. Substantial evidence, wrote the 2nd Circuit, supported the decision that the petitioner failed to establish that forced conscription into the army qualified as past persecution.

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