Protecting the interests of the American people
March 9, 2016
(Washington, D.C.) – On Monday, March 7th, the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), on behalf of its client the Federation for American Immigration Reform, submitted a friend-of-the-court brief (attached here) to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) to address whether the BIA should approve asylum applications based merely on claims of persecution or a fear of persecution as a result of family ties. To qualify for asylum in the U.S., an alien must meet the definition of a “refugee” under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), proving persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.
In its brief, IRLI argued that familial relationships do not fit within the INA’s “particular social group” category for three reasons: (1) the BIA cannot objectively verify the nexus for persecution on account of membership in a family; (2) the lack of a justiciable definition of the central term “family” in immigration and other fields of law forecloses articulation by the BIA of clear boundaries of who falls within such a group; and (3) even in circuits that have attempted to recognize familial relationships as a “particular social group,” the courts have been unable to consistently apply their own judicially-created definitions. IRLI concluded that these inherent limitations provide a strong rationale for the BIA to reject the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth and Fourth Circuits’ approach, and instead adopt the approach followed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth, Seventh, and Eighth Circuits that require a different protected ground when considering familial relationships to ensure that any alleged persecution or well-founded fear of persecution is truly “on account ofrace, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”
Dale L. Wilcox, IRLI’s Executive Director commented, “In the interest of ensuring the consistent nationwide adjudication of asylum claims and preventing the abuse of asylum relief, the Board should find that a different protected ground is required when the particular social group alleged is a familial relationship.” Wilcox continued, “Otherwise, if common characteristics, coupled with a meaningful level of harm, were all that need be shown, the social group concept would virtually swallow the entire refugee definition.”