The Seventh Circuit has granted the appeal of a petitioner seeking asylum based on the particular social group of immediate relatives of his wife. The petitioner’s wife was kidnapped and rape by a cartel leader who wished to “possess” her, and the petitioner himself was kidnapped and forced to listen to the execution of two other men because he refused to leave his wife and allow the cartel leader to claim her. The cartel leader also threatened him at gunpoint, and told him he knew the names of the couple’s sons.

“As in Hernandez-Avalos, the government argues here that the harm Gonzalez Ruano experienced resulted from Rivera’s attempt to ‘possess’ Catalina, and that the persecution was simply a ‘means to an end,’ making Gonzalez Ruano’s relationship to his wife incidental. In other words, goes the argument, he was not persecuted because he is a member of Catalina’s immediate family but because, as her husband, he was the one person preventing the CJNG from forcibly recruiting her. We confess that this argument—CJNG targeted Gonzalez Ruano because they wanted his wife, not because he is her husband—draws a finer distinction than we can discern. As in Hernandez-Avalos, Gonzalez Ruano’s relationship to his wife was the reason he, and not someone else, was targeted.“

“Finally, we address the government’s contention that Gonzalez Ruano should be denied asylum because no other members of his family were threatened or harmed by the CJNG. To downplay the obvious threats against Catalina’s sons, the government actually argued that Rivera, by merely expressing knowledge of the children’s names, did not threaten them. It’s an interesting suggestion, but it overlooks the fact that Rivera was holding a gun to Gonzalez Ruano when he mentioned that he knew the boys’ names. In the alternative, the Government argues the threat was actually against Gonzalez Ruano, not the boys themselves. We reject these astonishing arguments. They ask us to close our eyes to reality. In any event, Gonzalez Ruano did not need to prove that the CJNG targeted other members of Catalina’s family to establish that the cartel targeted him on account of his membership in her family. Threats to harm other members of the group can certainly be relevant, but they are not essential to such an asylum claim.“

The full text of Gonzalez Ruano v. Barr can be found here: