The petitioners, a husband and wife, filed a motion to reopen to seek asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture. They argued that they would be harmed on account of their membership in the particular social group comprised of "imputed wealthy Americans." Specifically, they asserted that because they are lightskinned, fit, and have American mannerisms or accents, their family will be perceived as wealthy Americans in Mexico, and thus will become targets for kidnaping or torture. They clarified that they are not actually wealthy, but the appearance of wealth will endanger them.
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the denial of the motion to reopen, making the following observations about the proposed social group: "Petitioners now seek to distinguish a particular social group that is a discrete subset of Mexicans returning home from the United States: those who have the physical appearance and mannerisms of Americans. Yet, petitioners provide insufficient evidence to support their claim that their alleged American appearance will make them targets for violent crimes upon return to Mexico any more than the populace at large. The evidence submitted in support of changed circumstances includes both American and Mexican victims of financial means, and the other evidence in the form of news reports does not mention wealth as the perpetrators’ primary motive. Rather, the evidence shows a generalized increase in violence in Mexico, as held by the Board."
This decision will feel like a substantial blow to advocates who have tried to convince the courts that individuals who are deported from the United States are at a higher risk of harm. However, it is also a reminder that a new body of evidence may one day change precedent. Attorney should continue to press these difficult claims and support them with as much evidence of social distinction and particularity as possible.
The full text of Ramirez-Munoz v. Lynch can be found here: http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2016/03/21/12-70870.pdf