Judge: Look closer at claim of being part of a persecuted social group

Back to TopE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

In granting a petition for review of a denial of an asylum request, 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge David Hamilton believes the Board of Immigration Appeals applied too narrow of a concept of a “social group.”

Doris Martinez-Buendia fled Colombia in 2005 and applied for asylum on the ground that she was being persecuted by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC) because of her anti-FARC political position and her involvement with the social group “Health Brigades.” The group provided health care to rural communities. In demanding she give public credit to FARC for the health-care work, it threatened her in letters and phone calls. She refused. Her sister was kidnapped by FARC as well as her brother-in-law; the latter died in FARC’s custody.

When she was delivering supplies to a school, a FARC member held a gun to Martinez-Buendia’s head and threatened that if she didn’t give FARC credit for the Health Brigades, they would do far worse to her than they did to her sister, who escaped captivity.

An immigration judge denied her application, which the BIA affirmed on the ground that Martinez-Buendia hadn’t established the past persecution she suffered was on account of her political opinion or membership in a particular social group.

The 7th Circuit reversed that decision in Doris Martinez-Buendia v. Eric H. Holder Jr., No. 09-3792, finding ample evidence Martinez-Buendia suffered the persecution because of her political beliefs. She refused to align with FARC because of her political views that FARC harmed a lot of Colombia and threatened democracy. There’s also evidence FARC viewed members of the Health Brigades as political opponents.

Because the judges found she was persecuted based on political beliefs, the majority didn’t address the idea she was persecuted on account of her membership in a social group. But Judge Hamilton addressed the idea in his six-page concurring opinion.

“I write separately to note that I believe the Board of Immigration Appeals also applied too narrow a concept of a ‘social group’ when evaluating petitioner’s leadership in the brigadas de salud (Health Brigades) in Colombia,” he wrote. “If we were not ordering the Board to grant refugee status to petitioner based on political persecution, I would order a remand to the Board for further development and consideration of the social group issue.”

The BIA erred in not recognizing that the statutory definition can reach a social group defined by its activities, at least where the persecution is based on those activities. He also wrote the BIA failed to consider the extent to which Martinez-Buendia was acting as a matter of conscience when she acted so as “to draw the attention and wrath of the FARC.”

“In sum, the facts and law relevant to petitioner’s claim for refugee status as a member of a persecuted social group deserved closer consideration. Future petitioners may offer evidence that they joined groups like the Health Brigades as a matter of conscience and that they have been persecuted, or that they face future persecution, on account of their membership in and work on behalf of the Health Brigades,” he wrote. “They should not be denied asylum simply because that membership may appear more fluid than membership in a racial, ethnic, or religious group, or because their involvement is the result of secular ethical values instead of religious faith.”


Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  2. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  3. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues