The Board of Immigration Appeals Issues Troubling Decision Addressing Particular Social Group Claims

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April 3, 2018 - On January 19, 2018, the Board of Immigration Appeals issued a precedential decision in Matter of W-Y-C- & H-O-B-, holding that asylum applicants seeking protection based on their membership in a particular social group must articulate their social group before an immigration judge in order for that social group to be considered on appeal. The Board held that it will not consider a particular social group claim that is “substantially different” from that which was argued in immigration court. The applicant in Matter of W-Y-C- & H-O-B- is a young Honduran mother seeking asylum for herself and her child on the basis of sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of family members. In immigration court the applicant’s attorney argued that his client was persecuted on account of her membership in the social group “single Honduran women age 14 to 30 who are victims of sexual abuse within the family and who cannot turn to the government.” On appeal, he argued the particular social group “Honduran women and girls who cannot sever family ties.” Though both groups were presumably based on the same experiences of persecution, the Board found them to be “substantially different” and dismissed the applicant’s appeal.

The Board’s decision in this case risks to preclude many applicants with meritorious asylum claims from protection. We encourage practitioners to consult AILA’s new practice pointer, “Matter of W-Y-C & H-O-B and Articulating Particular Social Groups Before the Immigration Judge,” which discusses potential effects of the W-Y-C & H-O-B- decision and provides guidance on preparing particular social group claims. If you have specific questions about how this decision may impact a case you are litigating, please contact CGRS through our technical assistance program.