PSG Defined

What is a PSG?

The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) and Federal Courts define the term “particular social group” (PSG).

To qualify for asylum protection as a PSG, the applicant must demonstrate:

  1. Membership in a particular group, which is composed of those:
    1. who share a common immutable characteristic that cannot or should not be required to change,
    2. are defined with particularity, and
    3. are socially distinct within the society in question; 
  2. Membership in that group is a central reason for the persecution; and 
  3. That the alleged harm is inflicted by the government of the applicant’s home country, or by persons that the government is unwilling or unable to control. 

Furthermore, when the applicant is the victim of private criminal activity, the analysis must also “consider whether government protection is available, internal relocation within the country is possible, and persecution exists countrywide.”

Here are some examples of PSGs:

  • Matter of H- (PSG: The plaintiff was a member of a ruling clan before they were ousted. The new ruling clan was retaliating against the old clan and killed several members of the plaintiff’s family and former clan members.)
  • Matter of A-R-C-G- (PSG: Married women in Guatemala who suffer domestic abuse but are unable to leave their marriages due to cultural and legal constraints)
  • Matter of Kasinga (PSG: Young women who are members of the Tchamba-Kunsuntu Tribe of northern Togo who have not been subjected to female genital mutilation, and who oppose it. They fear persecution based on their opinions of the practice.)
  • Perdomo v. Holder (9th Cir. 2010) (PSG: Plaintiff argued that Guatemalan women are murdered at a high rate and with impunity)
  • Henriquez-Rivas v. Holder (9th Cir. 2013) (PSG: People who testify against gang members in their home country)

A Particular Social Group is a difficult term to define. It is a characteristic that either:

  1. cannot change, such as race or nationality, or
  2. should not be required to change, such as religion or political opinion.

Beliefs that are credible normally are held over a long period of time. Although, new beliefs are theoretically possible, it’s easier to pretend to have them and not be sincere. Also, new beliefs are less likely to be deep-seated.

Beliefs must be fundamental to the core values of the person. Recently adopted beliefs can be doubted.

Allan Scott Lolly

managing attorney

Our country values freedom of political expression. Although, the U.S. government is skeptical of those applying for political asylum. This is because the belief is that the applicant came to the U.S. to seek a better life, not to escape horrific conditions at the hands of the government in the home country.

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