Flores-Rios v. Lynch

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Immigration
  • Date Filed: 12-01-2015
  • Case #: 12-72551
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge McKeown for the Court; Circuit Judge Hawkins and Chief Judge Thomas
  • Full Text Opinion

Under the framework for “membership in a particular social group”, the family is a distinct social group.

Felix Flores-Rios’s application for asylum was denied, and appealed for “withholding of removal and protection under the Convention Against Torture (‘CAT’).” Flores-Rios first came illegally into the United States in 2007. However, in 2009, gang members in Guatemala killed Flores-Rios’s father and cousin, as well as threatened his sister for cooperating with authorities. Flores-Rios asked the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) to withhold his removal based on the threat from the Guatemalan gang, and due to the fact that he would be persecuted for his Evangelical faith in Guatemala. The BIA rejected his claims. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit considered whether Flores-Rios had “established a likelihood of persecution either because of his religion or his membership in a cognizable particular social group.” The panel explained that membership in a particular social group can be proven by showing that the group is: “‘(1) composed of members who share a common immutable characteristic, (2) defined with particularity, and (3) socially distinct within the society in question.’” Beyond this, the panel found based on past precedent and related circuit court rulings that the family remains a distinct “social group.” The panel reasoned that based on the evidence of Flores-Rios’s family events, the social group claim should have been addressed by the BIA. PETITION DENIED in Part and GRANTED in Part. BIA’s decision VACATED and REMANDED.

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