Where the immigration judge focused on why a Honduran gang targeted the petitioner’s family, rather than petitioner herself, that was wrong. Because the record showed that the gang leveraged her familial relationship to her husband, as well as their familial relationships to their daughter, the nexus determination was reversed.
Sonia Araceli Perez Vasquez and her minor daughter, natives and citizens of Honduras, appeal from a final order of the Board of Immigration Appeal, or BIA, affirming the denial of their application for asylum, withholding of removal and protection under the Convention Against Torture, or CAT.
Notice of removal
As an initial matter, petitioner contends that under the Supreme Court’s decision in Pereira v. Sessions, her notice to appear was defective because it failed to include the date or time of her removal hearing, and that this defect deprived the immigration court of jurisdiction. This court has previously rejected the same argument, holding that a failure to include the date or time of the hearing does not implicate the immigration court’s jurisdiction or adjudicative authority.
Petitioner argues that she has established that she was persecuted in Honduras on account of her membership in her proposed particular social group—her nuclear family. The court agrees. In concluding otherwise, the immigration judge and the BIA erred by applying a legally incorrect and “excessively narrow” approach to analyzing whether petitioner satisfied the statutory nexus requirement—one that this court have rejected time and time again.
This court’s precedent makes clear that in cases involving family based particular social groups, “identifying why [the] petitioner’s family was targeted is not the relevant question” for nexus. Rather, the “operative question” is “whether [the petitioner’s] membership [in their family] is ‘a central reason why [they], and not some other person’ [were] targeted.”
In concluding that petitioner was not persecuted because of her familial ties, the immigration judge stressed that “[t]here [wa]s nothing in th[e] record to suggest that the extortionists, the gang members, had anything against [petitioner’s] husband or even [her] family.” The immigration judge’s focus on why the gang targeted petitioner’s family, rather than petitioner herself, is the same type of erroneous analysis that this court has previously rejected.
The immigration judge and the BIA also erred when they concluded that the gang was simply motivated by a desire for monetary gain, without properly considering other intertwined reasons for petitioner’s persecution. As this court has “repeatedly emphasized, it is enough that the protected ground be at least one central reason for the persecution—that is, one central reason, perhaps intertwined with others, why the applicant, and not another person was threatened.” The agency’s “[failure] to consider the intertwined reasons” for the persecution constituted a “misapplication of the statutory nexus standard.”
Generally, when the agency legally errs as it did here, “the proper course” is “to remand … for additional investigation or explanation.” However the record evidence in this case compels only one reasonable conclusion: the gang leveraged petitioner’s familial relationship to her husband, as well as their familial relationships to their daughter, to incentivize payment.
Again, the gang extorted money from petitioner and threatened her and her daughter with death, while explicitly stating that they knew she received money every month from her husband in the United States. And the gang’s threats had just the intended effect. After learning of those threats, petitioner’s husband sent additional money every month for the specific purpose of paying the gang so “they wouldn’t kill [his wife and his daughter].” It was “unreasonable” for the agency to conclude that petitioner’s status as her husband’s spouse was “not at least one central reason for [petitioner’s] persecution.”
For the foregoing reasons, the agency’s determination as to nexus is reversed, the final order of removal as well as the denial of petitioner’s application for asylum and withholding of removal is vacated and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
Petitioner also contends that she is entitled to relief under the CAT. Because petitioner failed to adequately raise her CAT claim before the BIA, and because the BIA deemed the issue waived and declined to address it on the merits, the claim has not been administratively exhausted. Thus, this claim is dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.
Petition granted in part and dismissed in part, and remanded.
Perez-Vasquez v. Garland (Lawyers Weekly No. 001-144-21, 23 pp.) (James A. Wynn Jr., J.) Case No. 19-1954. July 9, 2021. 4th Cir. From the Board of Immigration Appeals. Jonathan Westreich for Petitioners. Margot Lynne Carter for Respondent.