The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) has determined that family can be a cognizable particular social group for asylum and withholding of removal purposes.  However, the BIA noted that not all family-based social groups will qualify as particular social groups.  "We agree with the DHS’s argument that the inquiry in a claim based on family membership will depend on the nature and degree of the relationships involved and how those relationships are regarded by the society in question."  In the instant case, the BIA had "no difficulty identifying the respondent, a son residing in his father’s home, as being a member of the particular social group comprised of his father’s immediate family." 

The BIA went on to find that the applicant had not demonstrated the requisite nexus between his family ties and the harm he suffered.  "An asylum applicant’s membership in a family-based particular social group does not necessarily mean that any harm inflicted or threatened by the persecutor is because of, or on account of, the family membership.  A persecution claim cannot be established if there is no proof that the applicant or other members of the family were targeted because of the family relationship. If the persecutor would have treated the applicant the same if the protected characteristic of the family did not exist, then the applicant has not  established a claim on this ground."

"According to the facts found by the Immigration Judge in this case, the cartel attempted to coerce the respondent’s father into selling contraband in his store. When he refused, the cartel approached the respondent to sell its product because he was in a position to provide access to the store, not because of his family membership." Under these circumstances, the BIA found that family membership was not one central reason for the harm inflicted on the applicant.  Instead, "the cartel’s motive to increase its profits by selling contraband in the store was one central reason for its actions against the respondent and his family.  Any motive to harm the respondent because he was a member of his family was, at most, incidental. In this regard, we point out that the evidence does not indicate that the persecutors had any animus against the family or the respondent based on their biological ties, historical status, or other features unique to that family unit."  

"It is significant that the cartel directly asked the respondent to sell their drugs in the store. This act bears no tie to an enumerated ground but is rather a direct expression of the cartel’s motive to increase its profits by selling contraband in the store."  This last piece of the BIA's decision suggests that if the cartel had never asked the applicant to sell drugs, but instead, had harmed him after his father refused to do so, the applicant may have had a stronger argument that he suffered family-based persecution.  

The full text of Matter of L-E-A- is available here: