CA7 on Social Group: Cece v. Holder

CA7 on Social Group: Cece v. Holder

"The immigration judge granted Cece asylum in 2006, concluding that she belonged to the group of “young women who are targeted for prostitution by traffickers in Albania,” and that the Albanian government was unwilling or unable to protect such women. ... The Board dismissed Cece’s second appeal, emphasizing that Cece’s proposed group was defined in large part by the harm inflicted on its members and did not exist independently of the traffickers. ... Cece appealed to this Court and over one dissent, the panel denied Cece’s petition for review, agreeing with the Board that Cece had not named a cognizable social group and that the Board had sufficient evidence to conclude that Cece could relocate safely within Albania. We granted Cece’s petition for rehearing en banc and vacated the panel’s opinion and judgment. ... 

The Board’s order rejects Cece's social group as being not cognizable under the Act because it “is defined in large part by the harm inflicted on the group, and does not exist independently of the traffickers.” (R. 9). This is not a reasonedconclusion. As we have just described, the characteristics of the group consist of the immutable or fundamental traits of being young, female, and living alone in Albania. ... 

In this case, although it is true that these women are linked by the persecution they suffer—being targeted for prostitution—they are also united by the common and immutable characteristic of being (1) young, (2) Albanian, (3) women, (4) living alone. ... 

Petitioner is part of a group of young Albanian women who live alone. Neither their age, gender, nationality, or living situation are alterable. These characteristics qualify Cece’s proposed group as a protectable social group
under asylum law. ... 

[T]he Board has offered no explanation for why Cece’s group is not cognizable under the test the Board has adopted in Acosta. Sepulveda v. Gonzales, 464 F.3d 770, 772 (7th Cir. 2006). Or, more specifically, why being a young woman living alone in Albania does not qualify as a social group when the attributes are immutable or fundamental. The issue of whether a particular social group is cognizable is a question of law on which the Board erred. ... The Board’s decision cannot stand and must be reconsidered on remand: Cece has established that she belongs to a cognizable social group." - Cece v. Holder, Aug. 9, 2013.

[Hats off to Scott Eric Bratton and Charles Roth!]