Asylum Potential Over Guatemala Gang Threats

Immigration officials failed to properly consider the gang vendetta against the family of Guatemalan asylum seeker Felix Flores-Rios and must take a second look at the case, a federal appeals court held Tuesday.

Flores-Rios sought asylum in the U.S. based on persecution based on his evangelical Christian faith and because of a gang vendetta targeting his family.

The Board of Immigration Appeals considered only his Christian faith as a particular social group and denied his claim.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the decision holding that his family is also a cognizable social group that faces potential persecution by a gang.

Flores-Rios’ father was murdered by a gang outside his evangelical church in Guatemala in 2009.  Flores-Rios’s cousin witnessed the murder and agreed to testify but was also killed a day before the hearing.

His sister also began receiving death threats even though she had not seen her father’s murder.  She fled to the U.S.

Flores-Rios, who came to the U.S. without papers in 2007, argued gang witness intimidation and his family’s opposition to the Guatemalan gang that killed his relatives was the basis of his asylum claim.

But the immigration judge refused saying that because Flores-Rios did not witness the murders of his father and cousin he could not claim persecution.

The 9th Circuit disagreed and sent the case back to reconsider the alleged intimidation of his family as potential persecution that may make him eligible for asylum protection.

The “BIA erred in not addressing the family aspect of Flores-Rios’s social group claim,” said Judge Margaret McKeown.  Judges Sidney Thomas and Michael Daly Hawkins joined the opinion.

Flores-Rios v. Lynch, No. 12-72551


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