We have been discussing immigration court defenses lately.  Recently, I discussed the very old immigration defense of “asylum.”  In particular, I talked about one part of proving and winning an asylum case.  To prove and win a case, it is necessary to prove that a person is a “refugee.”  

This requires proving with evidence and testimony that the applicant suffered past persecution or has a very real fear of future persecution in his or her home country.  This persecution that the person might suffer must be for five possible reasons:

  1. Race
  2. Religion
  3. Nationality
  4. Political Opinion
  5. Particular Other Social Group

In immigration law, we refer to these as “protected groups.”  This means that international law requires the United States to protect members of these groups who come to the United States looking for protection and asylum.  As I mentioned a few weeks ago, the first three are quite obvious in what they mean, but the last two are a little harder to define.  It is often easy to tell what is someone’s religion or race or nationality.  But it is often difficult to prove what his or her political opinion may have been, and it is even more difficult to prove that someone is a part of a “particular other social group.”

Many different immigration lawyers and judges have different ideas about this.  There are many different possible examples of particular social groups.

Generally, “a particular social group” can be described as a group sharing a common characteristic that is so fundamental to their individual identities that the members cannot and should not be expected to change it.  Some examples of particular social groups include families (you cannot change who your parents or brothers or grandparents are) or people who own large amounts of property, or former gang members, or former members of the military of a particular country, or homosexual or transgender individuals.  Generally speaking, “members of a particular social group” have similar backgrounds, social status, family history, or habits.

The category of “a particular social group” that has suffered persecution is very useful for lawyers.  A lawyer can be creative in arguing why a particular client is a refugee because of persecution because of his or her “particular social group.”  The law is still working to give good definitions of what this phrase means.

To summarize, then, to win a case for asylum, it is necessary to prove that a person is a refugee, and to prove someone is a refugee, it is necessary to prove that the person has suffered or will suffer persecution because of a “protected reason” like religion, political group, race, nationality, or “other particular social group.”

Next, I will discuss what “persecution” means in a little more detail.  

Thanks for reading!