BIA Makes Expansive Decision in Asylum Case

By David North on August 28, 2014

Unless it is overturned by a higher authority (or unless I am misreading it completely) the Justice Department's Board of Immigration Appeals has just made a remarkably expansive decision on America's asylum program.

It looks like the BIA has ruled that all abused women, anywhere in the world, are potentially eligible for asylum in the United States provided that they can get into this nation and file a claim. They would have to prove their individual cases, however.

The decision relates to women from Guatemala, but the logic of the decision would suggest that such a ruling could be extended anywhere.

More specifically, the BIA wrote on August 26, 2014 that:

Depending on the facts and evidence in an individual case, "married women in Guatemala who are unable to leave their relationship" can constitute a cognizable particular social group that forms the basis of a claim for asylum ...

Now the asylum system works only within the United States. In order to file for it, an alien must be inside the nation, legally or illegally, so all the married women who are unable to leave their relationship in Guatemala cannot apply from there; they would have to reach the United States.

The case is Matter of A-R-C-G- et al, Respondents; the woman from Guatemala entered the United States without inspection on Christmas Day, 2005, a clever bit of timing on her part (which the decision does not mention). She applied for asylum, making a convincing case that she had been subject to "repugnant abuse" by her husband, but the judge said that this related to crimes against her, and that it did not "demonstrate eligibility for asylum".

Subsequently the Department of Homeland Security agreed that she belonged to a particular social group comprised of "married women in Guatemala who are unable to leave their relationships", but asked that the case be remanded to the IJ for further action — BIA agreed.

The lady in question clearly was treated in a criminal matter by her husband, and the local cops were, no surprise, no help, but should all women in that category be allowed to claim asylum? And if she can do so, why not other women from Guatemala and, for that matter, the entire world?

Further, the lady has been outside that relationship for nine full years, as she has been in the United States (albeit in illegal status), so why would she have to return to that husband were she to be sent back to Guatemala?

I think that the asylum system is a totally appropriate part of the immigration scheme, but it should be used for people who are being persecuted for their religious or political beliefs, or in some cases, their ethnicity. It need not be expanded to this "cognizable particular social group" as BIA has decided here.