Protecting Refugees from Violence

With only ten weeks to prepare from start to finish, a team of Robins Kaplan attorneys won asylum for a Central American mother and her 12-year-old son who had fled violence in their home country. This was one of the first Central American cases to come to Minnesota as a result of the surge of refugees arriving at the Texas border in the summer of 2014. Our attorneys successfully argued that the mother was targeted by a gang on account of her membership in her local police committee (the rough equivalent to our Policemen's Benevolent Association). She received death threats and fled with her children to another rural town. Her 21-year old son, who paid monthly extortion payments to the local gang, was murdered.

This case represents the first time that a small local group, such as a police committee, has been considered a "particular social group" for the purposes of granting asylum under the statutory definition of “particular social group” in the Immigration and Nationality Act. This decision lays the groundwork for expanding the definition of "particular social group" throughout the United States so that courts will consider the complexity of gang-related claims. The client and her son will now be able to build a safe life in Minnesota, and the client can petition to have her husband and other children join her in the United States.