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What is "Membership in a Particular Social Group"?

As explained in United States Immigration Law, a noncitizen may be granted asylum status if they have been the victim of injury or threatened injury due to "race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion."

What is "Membership in a Particular Social Group"?

The term "membership in a particular social group" is difficult to define. The Matter of Acosta decision indicates that members of the group share a "common, immutable characteristic." The suggestion here is that the trait is beyond choice, such as gender, but could also include an aspect of a person that is so woven into the fabric of their identity that they should not be expected to change.

A group may be formed on the basis of a common past experience, so long as the experience itself could not have been avoided. The social group cannot be in existence directly because of those perpetrating the offenses against them; it must exist "independently of the persecution." An example of this can be found in Gomez vs. INS, where Gomez cited her membership in a support group of women who had survived attacks from Salvadoran guerrillas as being the reason for her fear of persecution.

Other interpretations of the idea of a "particular social group" have to do with how close in relationship its members are to one another. Related factors to this determination are whether members of the group are distinguishable to those outside the group, and if they are treated differently under their respective law. If a "member of a particular social group" is given less favor or consideration from local authorities because of said membership, this may be considered in regards to granting asylum.

Issues related to immigration are too important to postpone and are best handled with the advice of a knowledgeable professional. Contact an immigration attorney at Yekrangi & Associates today.