CLINIC and the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies File Amicus Brief Defending Women and Families

Last Updated

July 23, 2020

On July 17, 2020, CLINIC and the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies, or CGRS, filed an amicus brief urging the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to overturn or substantially narrow a pair of decisions made by attorneys general Jeff Sessions and William Barr. At issue in the case is whether groups defined by a person’s gender or family ties are “particular social groups” under asylum law. A person qualifies for asylum if, among other protected reasons, they have a well-founded fear of persecution on account of their membership in a particular social group.

Pointing to an emerging judicial consensus that gender is, in some countries, “a principal, basic differentiation for assigning social and political status and rights,” the brief describes why there is no impediment under the law to recognizing particular social groups defined by gender, such as “Honduran women.” The brief describes why this conclusion is consistent with decades of judicial precedent and agency practice, and why Attorney General Sessions’s decision in Matter of A-B- does not prevent courts from granting asylum to people who fear gender-based violence.

The brief also defends the principle that families are particular social groups. Families are the “natural and fundamental group unit of society,” and, therefore, as the Ninth Circuit has already recognized, are “the quintessential particular social group.” The brief describes how the immigration agencies are unreasonably relying on Attorney General Barr’s decision in Matter of L-E-A- to exclude “ordinary” or “typical” families from the protection of our asylum laws, and urges the Ninth Circuit to put an end to this harmful interpretation of the law.