Unaccompanied Minor Asylum Applicants Dear Asylum Officer:
In further support of sisters SISTER 1 and SISTER 2 eligibility for asylum, I am submitting a summary of the arguments as to why SISTER 1 and SISTER 2 meet the requirements for asylum pursuant to INA § 208 as they have suffered past harm and face future harm on account of their membership in a particular social group and on account of race. In the alternative, SISTER 1 and SISTER 2 meet the requirements for a humanitarian grant of asylum under 8 C.F.R. § 208.13(b)(1)(iii). Please take this argument into account in making your final decision regarding SISTER 1 and SISTER 2 individual applications.
The submitted evidence, which will be further supported by SISTER 1 and SISTER 2 testimony, shows that they suffered past persecution on account of their membership in particular social groups and race, that they have a well-founded fear of future persecution on account of their social group and/or that they face “other serious harm” in Honduras.
SISTER 1 and SISTER 2 entered the United States on October X, 201X, when they were 11 and 10 years old, respectively, and were both adjudicated as unaccompanied minors. They filed their I-589 application for asylum on March X, 201X.
SISTER 1 and SISTER 2 are sisters from Tegucigalpa, Honduras. They are the daughters of MOTHER and FATHER. Both SISTER 1 and SISTER 2 suffered abuse from their aunt, (“AUNT-A”), and their grandmother, (“GRANDMOTHER-A”).
SISTER 1 and SISTER 2 had previously experienced domestic violence by witnessing their father, FATHER, repeatedly abuse their mother, MOTHER, when they all lived together in Tegucigalpa.
When SISTER 1 and SISTER 2 mother came to the United States sometime in 2013, she left her two daughters in the care of her sister, AUNT. Their aunt told them that it was her house and she was the one in charge. SISTER 1 and SISTER 2 aunt AUNT physically and emotionally abused both girls shortly after their mother’s departure. AUNT beat the sisters with cables, belts, and her hands whenever they did something she did not agree with, or simply whenever she felt like doing so. She hit the girls’ arms, legs, backs, and faces. She also pulled their hair and hurled insults at them.
AUNT would berate SISTER 1 and SISTER 2 by telling them they were, “little whores,” “idiots,” “dumb,” “crazy,” “ugly,” “stupid,” “useless,” and were daughters “of a whore.” AUNT also told the girls that they were stupid like their parents, and would constantly refer to their mother, Irene, as a “marimacha” (dyke) and a “golondrina,” (a woman who is with many men and women). In addition to the personal attacks, AUNT would repeatedly inflict psychological and emotional harm on SISTER 1 and SISTER 2, by telling them their mother never sent them any money because “she went to the United States to become rich and had forgotten she had kids.”
During one incident of abuse, AUNT punched SISTER 1 twice on the nose, making the child bleed profusely, because SISTER 1 told her she did not want to stay with her anymore, and was going to tell her mom that she wanted to go live with her grandmother GRANDMOTHER. AUNT yelled at SISTER 1 to go cry somewhere else and to stop bleeding on her sandals. SISTER 1 expressed to her mother that she did not want to live with AUNT for fear of further abuse.
In order to try and escape AUNT’S abuse, SISTER 1 and SISTER 2 went to live with their grandmother GRANDMOTHER. Unfortunately, their grandmother also abused her granddaughters. She would call them “dumb” and “stupid,” and forced SISTER 1 to do chores around the home, including cleaning and doing her own laundry and cooking food for herself despite her very young age. SISTER 2 recounts how her grandmother would hit her and insult her because of the color of her skin. GRANDMOTHER would scream at SISTER 2 that she was “pura negrecia” (very black) and a “cola de caballo” (horse’s tail). She would also tell the young girl that she was only a black girl and she hated her.
When SISTER 1 told her mother how her grandmother was treating them, MOTHER became angry and told her mother GRANDMOTHER that she did not entrust her daughters to them to be treated like slaves. GRANDMOTHER became angry and returned SISTER 1 to AUNT’S home, where the girls were again abused in the same manner as before. AU NT continued to hit and insult them. At one point, SISTER 1 told her aunt she was going to contact the police, and AUNT responded that if SISTER 1 did so, AUNT would make sure SISTER 1 ended up in an insane asylum because she was crazy.
AUNT continued to control and abuse SISTER 1 and SISTER 2 psychologically, physically, and emotionally. Whenever the girls informed their mother MOTHER of the abuse, MOTHER would tell AUNT to stop harming her children. However, AUNT also threatened SISTER 1 and SISTER 2 by telling them if they told their mother MOTHER what she did to them, she would hurt them even more.
Finally, SISTER 1 and SISTER 2 were so tired of being abused by their aunt AUNT and their grandmother GRANDMOTHER, and had no one else to protect them in Honduras, and they did not want to stay in Honduras for fear of further abuse. SISTER 1 and SISTER 2 left Honduras in September 201X and arrived at the U.S. Mexico border on October X, 201X. Both girls are now safe and living with her mother, MOTHER, in GOLDEN STATE, California.
SISTER 1and SISTER 2 Suffered Past Persecution
SISTER 1 and SISTER 2 suffered past persecution in Honduras when they were severely abused by their aunt AUNT and their grandmother GRANDMOTHER. SISTER 1 and SISTER 2 aunt and grandmother beat the sister’s, and forced them to work in the home. Their aunt, AUNT, created and maintained a culture of violence within the family. AUNT beat both sisters with belts, cords, and her hands almost daily and also verbally abused them. Their grandmother GRANDMOTHER also hit and verbally abused the girls when they tried to flee AUNT’S violence and briefly lived with their grandmother. SISTER 1 and SISTER 2 are traumatized by the memories of their aunt and grandmother’s abuse.
The sisters remember how their aunt cursed at them, calling them names such as, “little whores,” “idiots,” “dumb,” “crazy,” “ugly,” “stupid,” “useless,” and told them that their mother had left them and forgotten about them. Additionally, SISTER 1 and SISTER 2 grandmother, GRANDMOTHER, not only continued the physical abuse and insults, but also repeatedly told SISTER 2 in particular that she hated her because she was black, telling her she was, “pura negrecia” (very black) and a “cola de caballo” (horse’s tail). Persecution can include acts such as physical violence, rape and beatings. See Chand v. INS, 222 F.3d 1066, 1073-1074 (9th Cir. 2000). SISTER 1 and SISTER 2’S declarations and country conditions index demonstrate that the Honduran authorities do not protect children from abuse and assaults by family members as such violence is committed with great impunity in Honduras. See Exhibits A – EE. SISTER 1 and SISTER 2 were constantly scared for their physical safety and threats of serious harm, especially when AUNT punched SISTER 1 in the face and threatened to hurt them more if they told their mother MOTHER of the abuse. AUNT further told SISTER 1 if she tried to call the police, she would make sure she ended up in an insane asylum. This abuse, particularly when combined with confrontation or other mistreatment, may constitute persecution. See, e.g., Mashiri v. Ashcroft, 383 F.3d 1112, 1120-21 (9th Cir. 2004). “Threats on one’s life, within a context of political and social turmoil or violence, have long been held sufficient to satisfy a petitioner’s burden of showing an objective basis for fear of persecution.” Kaiser v. Ashcroft, 390 F.3d 653, 658 (9th Cir. 2004). “What matters is whether the group making the threat has the will or the ability to carry it out.” Id. The fact that threats are unfulfilled is not necessarily dispositive. See id. at 658-59.
Given SISTER 1 and SISTER 2’S young age during the time they were physically and emotionally abused and threatened, we urge your office to consider that, “[a]ge can be a critical factor in the adjudication of asylum claims and may bear heavily on the question of whether an applicant was persecuted or whether she holds a well-founded fear of future persecution.” Hernandez-Ortiz v. Gonzales, 496 F.3d 1042, 1045 (9th Cir. 2007) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). As such, injury to a child may have profound traumatic effects even if the same injury to an adult would not rise to the level of persecution. See id. (“[A] child’s reaction to injuries to his family is different from an adult’s. The child is part of the family, the wound to the family is personal, the trauma apt to be lasting.”); Mendoza-Pablo v. Holder, 667 F.3d 1308, 1312- 15 (9th Cir. 2012) (recognizing that even an infant can be the victim of persecution even if he has no present recollection of the events.).
The Persecution was on Account of SISTER 1and SISTER 2’s Membership in Particular Social Groups and Race
The Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA” or “Board”) has held that a cognizable social 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.” Matter of A-R-C-G-, 26 I&N Dec. 388, 392 (BIA 2014). The first of these elements is defined in Matter of Acosta, 19 I&N Dec. 211, 233-34 (BIA 1985). “Particularity” relates to “the question of delineation.” Matter of W-G-R-, 26 I&N Dec. 208, 214 (BIA 2014). In other words, the immutable characteristics of a social group must be “sufficiently precise to define a particular social group.” Matter of M-E-V-G-, 26 I&N Dec. 227, 239 (BIA 2014). On the other hand, the “social distinction” requirement emphasizes “the importance of ‘perception’ or ‘recognition’ to the concept of the particular social group.” Matter of W-G-R-, 26 I&N Dec. at 216. The proffered social groups are cognizable under the INA because they fulfill each of the three elements set forth by the Board. Each is discussed below in further detail.
SISTER 1 and SISTER 2 were Persecuted on Account of Their Membership in a Particular Social Group: “Grandchildren of Grandmother GRANDMOTHER” and “Nieces of Aunt AUNT”
Membership in a family unit has long been recognized by both the BIA and the Courts of Appeal as a social group. Matter of Acosta, 19 I&N Dec. 211 (BIA 1985); Molina-Estrada v. INS, 293, F.3d 1089, 1095 (9th Cir. 2002); Lin v. Ashcroft, 377 F.3d 1014, 1028-29 (9th Cir. 2004); Sanchez-Trujillo v. INS, 801 F.2d 1572, 1576-77 (9th Cir, 1986); Iliev v. INS, 127 F.3d 638, 642 &n.4 (7th Cir. 1997); Lopez-Soto v. Ashcroft, 383 F.3d 228, 235 (4th Cir. 2004); Fatin v. INS, 12 F.3d 1233, 1239- 40 (3d Cir.1993) ; Gebremichael v. INS, 10 F.3d 28, 36 (1st Cir.1993).
SISTER 1 and SISTER 2 are clearly members of their family, and their family has been targeted by both their aunt AUNT, who viewed it as her right to treat her spouse, children, and nieces under her care in any way she wanted, and their grandmother GRANDMOTHER, who also physically and emotionally abused both SISTER 1 and SISTER 2. SISTER 1, SISTER 2, and their mother MOTHER have the shared experience of belonging to the same family and of being targeted by MOTHER’S sister AUNT and mother GRANDMOTHER, due to the women’s’ belief that as adult members of the family, they were entitled to beat and abuse their family members. SISTER 1 and SISTER 2 have the shared experience of belonging to the same family and of being physically and emotionally abused by their aunt and grandmother.
Being a grandchild of GRANDMOTHER and niece of AUNT is an immutable characteristic, as SISTER 1 and SISTER 2 cannot change being a member of their family. Accordingly, SISTER 1 and SISTER 2 and their family are a social group within the meaning of 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(42). “There is no exception to the asylum statute for violence from family members; if the government is unable or unwilling to control persecution, it matters not who inflicts it.” Faruk v. Ashcroft, 378 F.3d 940, 943 (9th Cir. 2004). Further SISTER 1 and SISTER 2’S social group is particular and socially distinct as it is composed of their family: SISTER 1, SISTER 2, their mother MOTHER, grandmother GRANDMOTHER, and aunt AUNT.
SISTER 1 and SISTER 2 Were Persecuted on Account of their Membership in a Particular Social Group: “Daughters and Domestic Partners of FATHER
As detailed above, family membership is a long protected ground for seeking protection and there is no exception for violence from family members. SISTER 1 and SISTER 2 were present when their father, FATHER, violently abused their mother. SISTER 1 saw her father violently fling her mother in the air and remembers feeling terror and panic as a young child due to her father’s abuse. Given the girls’ young age during the time their father beat their mother in front of them, an adjudicator must consider that, “[a]ge can be a critical factor in the adjudication of asylum claims and may bear heavily on the question of whether an applicant was persecuted or whether she holds a well-founded fear of future persecution.” Hernandez-Ortiz v. Gonzales, 496 F.3d 1042, 1045 (9th Cir. 2007) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). As such, injury to a child may have profound traumatic effects even if the same injury to an adult would not rise to the level of persecution. See id. (“[A] child’s reaction to injuries to his family is different from an adult’s. The child is part of the family, the wound to the family is personal, the trauma apt to be lasting.”); Mendoza-Pablo v. Holder, 667 F.3d 1308, 1312- 15 (9th Cir. 2012) (recognizing that even an infant can be the victim of persecution even if he has no present recollection of the events.).
SISTER 1and SISTER 2 Were Persecuted on Account of their Membership in a Particular Social Group: “Young Honduran Women without Familial Protection”
SISTER 1 and SISTER 2 were left alone in Honduras after their mother MOTHER came to the United States, and cannot live with or see their father, FATHER, who is was violent in their presence and a drug addict. Without any familial protection, SISTER 1 and SISTER 2 were left particularly vulnerable to violence. The social group of “Young Honduran Women without Familial Protection,” is defined by common, immutable characteristics – in this case, nationality, age, and lack of a parent present to care for them. The group is also socially distinct, because violence against members of this group is ubiquitous and there is a lack of protection for children. See Exhibits R- EE. As such, “Female Honduran children without familial protection” constitutes a cognizable social group under the INA.
SISTER 1 and SISTER 2’S aunt and grandmother targeted the sisters because they did not have familial protection. Both AUNT and GRANDMOTHER knew that SISTER 1 and SISTER 2 did not have their parents to care for them, as MOTHER had gone to the United States and entrusted her sister to care for her daughters. AUNT and GRANDMOTHER took advantage of that opportunity in order to physically and emotionally abuse SISTER 1 and SISTER 2 on multiple occasions, repeatedly beating them with their hands, belts, and cords and verbally abusing them, for example, as being “stupid” and “dumb,” as well as telling SISTER 2 she was, “pura negrecia” (very black). AUNT also told SISTER 1 that told me that if she tried to call the police, she would place her in an insane asylum.
The country conditions in Honduras provide further evidence of nexus. As detailed in the country documentation, the police and Honduran judicial system generally treat domestic and child violence as a private matter and would refuse to enforce laws to protect children. See Exhibits A - EE. The country condition documentation in SISTER 1 and SISTER 2’S case establishes that adults in Honduras frequently harm children with impunity and that such harm is frequently dismissed as a permissible private matter. Id.
AUNT and GRANDMOTHER’S actions should also be viewed in light of country conditions documentation, which provide strong circumstantial evidence that SISTER 1 and SISTER 2’S aunt and grandmother did persecute them because they are Honduran children without parental protection. See Sarhan, 658 F.3d at 656 (finding that the petitioner would be killed on account of her membership in a particular social group where the evidence demonstrated that her brother would kill her because “society has deemed that this is a permissible . . . course of action and the government has withdrawn its protection from the victims.”)
SISTER 2 Faced Additional Persecution On Account of Race
SISTER 2 was additionally targeted by her grandmother GRANDMOTHER due to SISTER 2’S darker skin. As held by the Ninth Circuit, a petitioner who is targeted in part due to her ethnicity meets the burden of showing persecution on account of a protected ground. Sinha v. Holder, 564 F3d 1015 (9th Cir. 2009). Some cases use the more precise term “ethnicity,” “which falls somewhere between and within the protected grounds of race and nationality.” Shoafera v. INS, 228 F.3d 1070, 1074 n.2 (9th Cir. 2000) (internal quotation marks omitted); see also Andriasian v. INS, 180 F.3d 1033, 1042 (9th Cir. 1999) (persecution of Armenian in Azerbaijan). In addition, persecution may be based on mixed motives as long as one of them is one of the statutorily enumerated grounds. Borja v. INS, F.3d 732, 736-37 (9th Cir. 1999) (en banc); Baghdarsaryan v. Holder, 592 F.3d 1018 (9th Cir 2010). An applicant needs to show that the protected ground was one central reason, but need not prove which reason was dominant. Parussimova v. Mukasey, 555 F.3d 1015 (9th Cir 2009).
When SISTER 2’S grandmother beat her, she would scream at SISTER 2 that she was “pura negrecia” (very black) and a “cola de caballo” (horse’s tail). GRANDMOTHER would also tell the young girl that she was only a black girl and she hated her. Since SISTER 2 has a darker skin complexion, she was additionally tormented by her grandmother due to her race and ethnic background as evidenced by the insults directed to her during the attacks. Country conditions relating to the treatment of Hondurans with a darker complexion, demonstrate that at least one central reason that her grandmother persecuted SISTER 2 was due to her race. Country conditions documentation related to racism in Honduras, provides strong circumstantial evidence that SISTER 2’S and grandmother, in particular, did persecute SISTER 2 on account of race. Id. See Exhibits FF– OO.
SISTER 1 and SISTER 2 Have a Well-founded Fear of Future Persecution On Account of Their Membership in the Above Stated Social Groups
SISTER 1 and SISTER 2 are entitled to a presumption of eligibility for asylum because they suffered past persecution. Where there is past persecution, “it shall be presumed that the applicant’s life or freedom would be threatened in the future in the country of removal on the basis of the original claim.” 8 C.F.R. 1208.16(b)(1)(i). Because SISTER 1 and SISTER 2 suffered past persecution on account of their social group, they are presumed to have a well-founded fear of future persecution. Current country conditions in Honduras indicate that SISTER 1 and SISTER 2 have every reason to continue to fear for their safety. Even if SISTER 1 and SISTER 2 could move to another town in Honduras, the law requires that it must be reasonable for them to do so. In this case, it has been established that to avoid their persecutors, their own aunt and grandmother, they would have to sever their only family ties and support in Honduras. It is not reasonable to ask SISTER 1 and SISTER 2 to sever all contact with their only network in Honduras given their extremely young age; the pervasive violence throughout Honduras and to have to live in constant fear of abuse at the hands of their grandmother and aunt, given their already fragile psychological state.
If returned, SISTER 1 and SISTER 2 will once again be subject to psychological and physical harm by their grandmother and aunt, who continue to view it as their right to abuse their relatives. Given country conditions in Honduras within a society that views family violence as a private matter, it is unlikely that the Honduran government can or will protect SISTER 1 and SISTER 2 against further physical or psychological violence if they are forced to return to Honduras. Country conditions demonstrate that the Honduran government routinely fails to protect children. See Exhibits A - EE.
The Honduran Government is Unable and Unwilling to Control SISTER 1 and SISTER 2’S Persecutors.
Persecution is found where the government has “withdrawn its protection” against serious family violence. Sarhan v. Holder, 58 F.3d 649, 656 (7th Cir. 2011). The police and Honduran judicial system generally do not intervene against child abuse and familial abuse, allowing perpetrators to commit the abuse with impunity. See Exhibits R - EE. Problems with reporting abuse are particularly acute for children, because the abuse is typically perpetrated by relatives and other adults close to them, so they suffer in silence, too afraid to speak out and to seek help, fearing punishment if they do, and mistrusting the country’s historically inadequate support for children in such situations. Violence against women is also rampant and the Honduran authorities routinely fail to protect women from interfamilial abuse.
It is not necessary for SISTER 1 and SISTER 2 to show they sought assistance from law enforcement when such requests for protections would have likely been in vain. In fact, when SISTER 1 told her aunt she would contact the police, AUNT simply told her she was crazy, and if she tried, she would place her in an insane asylum. In re S-A-, 2000 BIA LEXIS 12 (BIA 2000) (finding that even though the applicant did not seek help, the authorities would likely have been unable or unwilling to control a father’s persecution of the applicant); Aguirre-Cervantes, 242 F. 3d 1169, 1173, 1778 (9th Cir. 2001) (finding the government unable or unwilling to control the persecutor where petitioner never asked police for help because she believed the police would not help her and country conditions showed family violence was pervasive).
Despite the widespread and serious nature child and familial violence as well as violence against women, the Honduran government lacks a real interest, infrastructure, and funding to improving the quality of life and the mental and physical development of children. Thus, the Honduran government is both unable and unwilling to control SISTER 1 and SISTER 2’S persecutors.
SISTER 1 and SISTER 2 Also Qualify for Asylum Pursuant to 8 C.F.R. § 208.13(b)(1)(iii)(B)
SISTER 1 and SISTER 2 credibly testify that they fear future persecution on account of a protected ground. However, even if the asylum office were to find that the sisters do not have an objectively reasonable well-founded fear, SISTER 1 and SISTER 2 remain eligible for asylum under 8 C.F.R. § 208.13(b)(1)(iii)(B). Victims of past persecution who no longer reasonably fear future persecution on account of a protected ground may be granted asylum if they can establish a reasonable possibility that they may suffer other serious harm upon removal to that country. See Belishta v. Ashcroft, 378 F.3d 1078, 1081 (9th Cir. 2004) (order); see also Hanna v. Keisler, 506 F.3d 933, 939 (9th Cir. 2007.) The fear of future harm need not be related to a protected ground. Belishta, 378 F.3d at 1081.
Here, SISTER 1 and SISTER 2 suffered past persecution and is at risk of other serious harm. The “other serious harm” the sisters will suffer includes further physical and emotional abuse by their family members, as well as the rampant gang violence in Honduras. Given current country wide violence, there is a high likelihood that the sisters will be the victim of gang violence in Honduras. See e.g. Tabs K, M. In addition, SISTER 1 and SISTER 2 will suffer severe psychological harm at the possibility of having to live in Honduras, where they continued to fear for their safety at all times.
SISTER 1 and SISTER 2 fear that they will again be abused if they are returned to Honduras. SISTER 1 and SISTER 2 therefore respectfully request that the Asylum Office grant her application for asylum.
Immigration Staff Attorney
Centro Legal de la Raza
3400 E. 12th Street
Oakland, CA 94601
1 In the interests of economy, rather than accounting all of the facts of the case, included is a brief factual summary. Accordingly, SISTER 1 and SISTER 2, through undersigned counsel, hereby incorporate the entire contents of their declaration.
3400 E 12th St, Oakland, CA 94601 p: (510) 437-1554 f: (510) 437-9164 www.centrolegal.org