The Fourth Circuit has found a woman was persecuted on account of her membership in a well-known, business-owning family.  While the threatening notes from the gang members did not explicitly reference her family ties, the court noted that they the notes must be considered in context: (1) Zavaleta Policiano and her father’s stores, as well as their familial relationship, were well-known in the community; (2) MS-13 threatened Zavaleta Policiano several times by phone; (3) Zavaleta Policiano’s statement that MS-13 “threatened me because my father had left;” and (4) the threats against Zavaleta Policiano began immediately after her father fled to Mexico.  

"When considering the unchallenged record evidence, we are compelled to conclude that Zavaleta Policiano’s familial relationship to her father was “at least one central reason” MS-13 targeted and threatened her.  The evidence shows that MS-13 explicitly threatened to kill Zavaleta Policiano’s father and his family if he did not pay the extortion demands, and that immediately after he fled El Salvador, the gang began threatening Zavaleta Policiano.  The timing of the threats against Zavaleta Policiano is key, as it indicates that MS-13 was following up on its prior threat to target Barrientos’s family if he did not accede to the gang’s demands.  This explanation appears especially probable given the absence of record evidence that Zavaleta Policiano was ever threatened before her father’s departure."

The full text of Zavaleta-Policiano v. Sessions can be found here: