Jorge Roberto Barillas-Mendez applied for asylum based on the physical and economic abuse he suffered at the hands of his aunt (with whom he lived).  She beat him every other day, and kept the money that Barillas-Mendez's father sent to support him.  He was unable to tell his parents about the abuse because his aunt listened to their phone conversations.  None of the neighbors were ever alerted to the abuse and the police were never informed.  Barillas-Mendez was also beaten by a second cousin who was a member of the MS-13 gang, and who believed that Barillas-Mendez was the member of a rival gang.

The Immigration Judge (IJ) denied Barillas-Mendez’s asylum application, concluded that Barillas-Mendez’s allegations of abuse suffered in Guatemala did not establish persecution or a well-founded fear of future persecution.  In addition, the actions by private individuals (i.e. Barillas-Mendez's aunt and cousin) would not amount to persecution, and Barillas-Mendez failed to show that the government was unwilling or unable to control his aunt and cousin.  Finally, the IJ determined that Barillas-Mendez failed to show that the alleged persecution was on account of a protected ground (political opinion or membership in a particular social group).

The Board of Immigration Appeals (Board) affirmed the IJ’s determination that Barillas-Mendez had not established past persecution in Guatemala because the physical abuse he suffered did not rise to the level of harm required to constitute persecution. The Board also agreed with the IJ that Barillas-Mendez had not established a well-founded fear of future persecution based on a protected ground, but the Board did not address the IJ’s conclusion that abuse by the aunt and cousin as private individuals did not constitute persecution.

On appeal, the Eighth Circuit agreed that the Board was not compelled to find that the abuse Barillas-Mendez experienced (which resulted resulted in bruises, red marks, and a bloody mouth) rose to the level of persecution.  The fact that Barillas-Mendez was a minor when he experienced the harm did not compel the conclusion that it qualified as persecution.  

The full text of Barillas-Mendez v. Lynch can be found here: