Landmark Asylum Decision for Domestic Violence Victims | CLINIC

Landmark Asylum Decision for Domestic Violence Victims

By Tatyana Delgado

The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) recently issued a landmark decision that impacts domestic violence victims who are seeking asylum in the United States.  Asylum applicants must show that the persecution they have or will face is on account of one of five protected grounds: race, religion, national origin, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.  It is the last ground that has received the most interest and litigation.  

In Matter of A-R-C-G- et al., 26 I&N Dec. 388 (BIA 2014), the BIA held that “married women in Guatemala who are unable to leave their relationship” is a particular social group for purposes of obtaining asylum and withholding of removal.  While other domestic violence victims who belong to this particular social group have received asylum in the past, this is the first time that the BIA has issued a binding precedential decision.  To learn more about successful asylum cases involving domestic violence victims, review the Department of Homeland Security’s Supplemental Briefs in Matter of L.R. and Matter of R.A.

In Matter of A-R-C-G- et al., the lead respondent suffered at the hands of her husband while she was living in Guatemala.  On several occasions, the respondent’s husband beat her.  He also broke her nose and raped her.  The respondent contacted the police, but was told they would not get involved in a marital relationship.

The BIA found that the respondent suffered harm that rises to the level of persecution, is a member of a particular social group, and that the persecution was on account of her membership in a particular social group.  The BIA stated that members of the group share a common immutable characteristic, which is gender.  Marital status can also be an immutable characteristic in instances where the person is unable to leave a relationship.  In addition, the BIA found that the group has particularity and is socially distinct.  Social distinction depends on the facts and evidence presented in each case, including evidence related to country conditions.

The BIA remanded the case.  The Immigration Judge must now consider whether the government of Guatemala was unwilling or unable to control the respondent’s husband and issue a decision on her eligibility for asylum.