“(1) Whether a particular social group based on family membership is cognizable depends on the nature and degree of the relationships involved and how those relationships are regarded by the society in question. (2) To establish eligibility for asylum on the basis of membership in a particular social group composed of family members, an applicant must not only demonstrate that he or she is a member of the family but also that the family relationship is at least one central reason for the claimed harm.”
PANEL: BIA Appellate Immigration Judges Greer, Malphrus, Liebowitz
OPINION BY: Judge Anne Greer
I was the Immigration Judge in one of the leading “family as a PSG” cases cited by the BIA, the Fourth Circuit’s decision in Crespin-Valladares v. Holder, 632 F.3d 117, 124−25 (4th Cir. 2011). In Crespin, I had granted asylum to a Salvadoran family comprising a PSG of “family members of those who actively oppose gangs in El Salvador by agreeing to be prosecutorial witnesses.”
The BIA reversed me on appeal, and the respondents sought judicial review in the Fourth Circuit. That Court (much to my delight and satisfaction, I must admit) reversed the BIA and agreed with me that the respondent’s PSG was valid.
Following that, family based PSGs came up frequently in the Arlington Immigration Court. However, in a number of cases, as in L-E-A-, in their haste to posit a valid family-based PSG, attorneys neglected to prove the nexus between the PSG and the harm, or, even more surprisingly, failed to show that the respondent was even a member of the proposed PSG. Details are important!
Nevertheless, since family-based PSG cases are often “grantable,” I can’t help wondering why the BIA selected a denial for the precedent, rather than putting forth a positive example of how family-based PSGs can be a legitimate means of granting protection under the law and thereby saving lives?
In L-E-A-, the PSG was the respondent’s membership in his father’s family. Gangs threatened him with harm because they wanted him to sell drugs in his father’s store, and he refused. The respondent’s membership in the family is immutable. Additionally, there is no reason to believe that the gangs would have threatened the respondent but for his membership in a family which ran a store where they wanted to sell drugs.
Consequently, the IJ and the BIA panel could just have easily found that “family membership” was at least one central reason for the threatened harm. To me, this seems like a better analysis. I find the panel’s observation that anyone who owned the store would have been threatened irrelevant. So what?