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The Seventh Circuit found that former gang membership is a cognizable particular social group for asylum purposes.
In this case, the National Immigrant Justice Center challenged the Board of Immigration Appeals’ (BIA) determination that individuals fearing persecution by powerful Central American gangs cannot obtain asylum in the United States.  Mr. Benitez Ramos had been a member of the Mara Salvatrucha gang in El Salvador, but the birth of his child led to him developing qualms about it, and he decided to flee and became “born again.”  The BIA found him ineligible for asylum on the grounds that persecution due to his opposition to gangs was not cognizable under asylum law, saying that the proposed social group did not have social visibility.  The Seventh Circuit reversed the decision.
Mr. Ramos was represented by Mel Washburn, of Sidley Austin, LLP, Arkansas attorney Roy Petty, and Claudia Valenzuela of the National Immigrant Justice Center.
Read the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals opinion, 589 F3d 426 (7th Cir. 2009), here.