By Farhad Sethna, Attorney ©2015
On June 9, 2015, the Board of Immigration Appeals, in a three-judge panel issued an unpublished decision in Matter of R-D-M.
Even though this is an unpublished decision, and therefore lacks the weight of a precedential decision for purposes of reliable case law authority, the decision is very important.
What happened in this case?
The Board of Immigration Appeals expanded its previous definition of a particular social group specifically related to “married women in Guatemala who are unable to leave the relationship” (Matter of A-R-C-G-, 26 I&N Dec. 388 (BIA 2014)).
In this case, the Board found the particular social group to be “El Salvadoran women in domestic relationships who are unable to leave”
The Board overruled the Immigration Judge’s decision and held that a woman applying for asylum of refugee status on the basis of an abusive domestic relationship (1) need not be married, and (2) the fact that she was a “woman”, “in a domestic relationship”, and “unable to leave”, all met the requisite definition of a “particular social group” as set forth by the Board in Matter of W-G-R-, 26 I&N Dec. 208 (BIA 2014), and Matter of Matter of M-E-V-G-, 26 I&N Dec. 227 (BIA 2014).
The facts of this case are typical of the thousand of women and children seeking refuge in the USA and who are being detained and “processed” by the USCBP and the USICE at the southern border: most claim to be either victims of domestic violence, or victims of violence at the hands of criminal and human trafficking cartels. For details on this travesty of justice, please see the other articles on my blog about my experiences volunteering at the ICE prison in Dilley, Texas.
The particular social group analysis held even though the respondent had family in El Salvador, and even though the respondent’s alleged abuser, her domestic partner was 59 years old (the respondent was identified as being 52).
The court held that despite these factors, the respondent, a mother with five children, all with her abuser, was still entitled to protection under the asylum and refugee laws.
To be sure, the court found that the respondent did not qualify for asylum, because her asylum application was filed more than one year after her last entry to the United States and she did not qualify for any waiver of the one-year filing deadline due to exceptional circumstances or changed country conditions.
Nevertheless, the Board found that the respondent did indeed qualify for “withholding of removal”.
This decision is heartening, because it establishes that the Board does not hold fast to its requirement that a respondent must be legally married in order to claim refuge from an abusive relationship. It also further provides a liberal reasoning and application of the term “social distinction” which was first enunciated by the Board in the W-G-R- and M-E-V-G- decisions.
Kudos to the Florence Immigration Project, a nonprofit group of tireless attorneys and volunteers who work at USICE Detention Facility in remote and extremely hot, Florence, Arizona.
About the author: Attorney Farhad Sethna has practiced law for over 20 years. Since 1996, he has been an adjunct professor of Immigration Law at the University of Akron, School of Law, in Akron, Ohio. He is a frequent speaker at Continuing Legal Education and professional development seminars on various immigration-related topics. His practice is limited to immigration and small business. With offices in Cuyahoga Falls, Akron and Dover, Ohio, Attorney Sethna represents clients in all types of immigration cases. Our number is: (330)-384-8000. Please send your general immigration questions to AttorneySethna@immigration-america.com. We will try to answer as many questions as possible.
This is only general legal information. Please consult a qualified immigration attorney for advice on your specific case.