Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Benitez Ramos 7th Circuit El Salvador withholding of removal former gang member

Record failed to support Bd.'s denial of alien's application for withholding of removal where alien (native of El Salvador) alleged that he would be persecuted by members of criminal gang on account of his status as former member of gang and as newly converted Christian if he were forced to return to El Salvador since his Christian religion would preclude him from rejoining gang. Bd. failed to give reasoned explanation for why statutory bar for individuals who commit serious crimes applied to former members of gang. Thus, Bd. must determine on remand whether alien actually committed violent acts as member of gang, which would preclude alien from obtaining relief, and whether alien was more likely to be persecuted by gang if returned to El Salvador.

Petition for review a BIA's denial of an El Salvadoran citizen's petition for withholding of removal on the ground that former Salvadoran gang members do not constitute a particular social group, nor can membership in a criminal gang constitute membership in a particular social group, is granted and the Board's decision is vacated and remanded as a gang is a group and being a former member of a group is a characteristic impossible to change, except perhaps by rejoining the group.

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El Salvador is a constitutional, multiparty democracy with a population of approximately 5.8 million. In 2004 voters elected Elias Antonio Saca of the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) as president for a five-year term in generally free and fair elections. Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over the security forces.

Although the government generally respected the rights of its citizens, protection of human rights was undermined by widespread violent crime, including gang-related violence, high levels of impunity from prosecution, and judicial corruption. Other significant human rights problems included harsh, violent, and overcrowded prison conditions; lengthy pretrial detention; violence and discrimination against women; abuses against children, child labor, and forced child prostitution; trafficking in persons; and inadequate enforcement of labor rights.

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