Where the record showed that the asylum applicant was not targeted because of her membership in a particular social group but because the assailant attacked anyone who aided his former wife, the asylum claim was denied.
Veronica Toledo-Vasquez petitions this court to review an order from the Board of Immigration Appeals or BIA, denying her application for asylum. The BIA found that Veronica had not shown she was persecuted on account of her membership in her alleged particular social group, “family members of Guisela Toledo-Vasquez.”
The question is whether substantial evidence in the record supports the BIA’s decision that Veronica was not targeted on account of her membership in the group “family members of Guisela Toledo-Vasquez.” The record would not compel a reasonable adjudicator to conclude that Veronica’s membership in Guisela’s family was anything more than incidental, tangential superficial and subordinate to another reason for Rogelio to harm her. In contrast, the record contains substantial evidence that central reasons for Veronica’s persecution included her intervening in Guisela’s and Rogelio’s marriage, aiding her sister in escaping Rogelio and assisting in Rogelio’s capture and imprisonment.
As both the BIA and immigration judge noted, every threat made by Rogelio to Veronica came after her attempts to rescue Guisela from Rogelio’s abuse. Whether it was attempting to help Guisela escape when Rogelio beat her or testifying at legal proceedings, Veronica’s efforts to help Guisela enraged Rogelio and triggered his persecution of Veronica. On the other hand, the alleged basis for the persecution—the family relationship between Veronica and Guisela—was never an issue during the time Veronica spent in Mexico throughout 2002 to 2013. Nor was it an issue after she returned when she was not trying to help Guisela with her problems with Rogelio. Rogelio targeted Veronica only after her efforts to help Guisela.
Supporting this conclusion is Rogelio’s treatment of other family members. Rogelio threatened Angelica only after she provided Guisela shelter. Rogelio targeted, and ultimately murdered, Francisco only after he helped Guisela escape from Rogelio’s abuse, aided the police in capturing Rogelio and protected Veronica and Guisela from the threats of Rogelio’s family members during the custody proceedings.
Rogelio even hit his own mother but only after she intervened to stop him from choking Guisela. Nothing in the record suggests that any of Guisela’s family members were subjected to Rogelio’s wrath until they attempted to help Guisela. But if their family membership was the reason for Rogelio’s persecution, they should have been targeted long before they intervened in his affairs.
Further supporting the BIA’s decision is that Rogelio treated nonfamily members who intervened the same way. Rogelio threatened Francisco’s father after he pressed the authorities to prosecute Rogelio for Francisco’s murder. He threatened Francisco’s friend, Fidencio, after Fidencio helped Francisco and the police capture Rogelio. Once again, whether family or not, Rogelio targeted anyone and everyone who aided Guisela or otherwise acted against him. If you did that, Rogelio was an equal opportunity persecutor. If you stayed out of his business, he left you alone.
Veronica insists that this court’s precedent compels the conclusion that she was targeted on account of her family membership. That precedent, she points out, warns against an exceedingly narrow view of the nexus requirement and declares that there can be more than one central reason for persecution. As noted above, however, Rogelio not only persecuted Veronica and other members of Guisela’s family. He also persecuted nonfamily members who, like Veronica, attempted to help Guisela. Thus, the common denominator in who he persecuted was not family relationship; it was whether the person had sought to help Guisela or hinder him.
In short, nothing in the record compels this court to conclude that this is not a private and purely personal dispute to which asylum does not apply. What’s more, Veronica cannot point us to any case in this circuit or decision from the BIA finding that the nexus of persecution is family membership when the persecutor is himself a family member. The court declines to expand asylum relief to such uncharted waters.
Toledo-Vasquez v. Garland (Lawyers Weekly No. 001-046-22, 18 pp.) (A. Marvin Quattlebaum Jr., J.) Case No. 20-1849. March 2, 2022. From the Board of Immigration Appeals. Devon R. Senges for Petitioner. Jessica Eden Burns for Respondent. 4th Cir.