Johana Cece is an Albanian woman who was targeted by organized crime figures in Albania for forced sex trafficking. She fled Albania to escape, and applied for asylum. The Board of Immigration Appeals (Board) denied her claim, holding that Albanian women who fear sex trafficking cannot access asylum protections in this country, because that group of women is not "cognizable" for purposes of our asylum laws. A panel of the Court of Appeals upheld the Board's decision by a 2-1 vote, with Judge Rovner dissenting. The Court of Appeals then voted to rehear the case en banc. All 10 active members of the court, plus Judge Manion who is in senior status but sat on the panel, heard oral argument in the case on September 27, 2012. Chuck Roth represented NIJC in oral argument.
NIJC filed an amicus brief in this case, arguing that the Board has improperly adopted a complicated set of rules governing the recognition of groups that share a characteristic that causes them face persecution. These rules amount to a misguided effort to prevent groups from being too big or too small, too public or too obscure. The result is a muddled asylum analysis that unnecessarily constricts asylum eligibility. No one doubts that Ms. Cece faces a real danger in Albania - one that many Albanian women have been unable to escape. Yet the government wishes to return Ms. Cece to face that harm.
On August 9, 2013, the Seventh Circuit granted Cece's petition for rehearing en banc
and vacated their prior opinion. The Court held that Ms. Cece had proferred a cognizable social group and found that the BIA's conclusion as to whether relocation was a viable option was not supported by substantial evidence and must be remanded. Judge Easterbrook and Judge Manion both issued dissenting opinions.
*CGRS's motion for leave to file a brief as amicus curiae was denied on August 30, 2012