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Big PSG and Nexus Victory at CA1 - Espinoza-Ochoa v. Garland

December 28, 2023 (1 min read)

Espinoza-Ochoa v. Garland

"Here, the IJ and BIA found, and the government does not dispute, that Espinoza-Ochoa credibly testified that he experienced harm and threats of harm in Guatemala that "constitute[d] persecution." But the agency concluded that Espinoza-Ochoa was still ineligible for asylum for two reasons. First, it held that Espinoza-Ochoa had failed to identify a valid PSG because the social group he delineated, "land-owning farmer, who was persecuted for simply holding [the] position of farmer and owning a farm, by both the police and gangs in concert," was impermissibly circular. Second, the IJ and BIA each held that, regardless of whether his asserted PSG was valid, the harm Espinoza-Ochoa experienced was "generalized criminal activity" and therefore was not on account of his social group. We conclude that the BIA committed legal error in both its PSG and nexus analyses. We first explain why Espinoza-Ochoa's PSG was not circular and then evaluate whether his PSG was "at least one central reason" for the harm he suffered. Ultimately, we remand to the agency to reconsider both issues consistent with this opinion. ... For all these reasons, we agree with Espinoza-Ochoa that legal error infected both the PSG and nexus analyses below. Accordingly, we GRANT the petition, VACATE the decision below, and REMAND for further proceedings consistent with this opinion."

[Hats way off to Randy Olen!]