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articles

Examining the Protected Ground of Feminist Political Opinion

By Chloe Tomlinson

In order to be eligible for asylum, applicants must meet several elements. The applicant has the burden of proving that they are unable to return to their home country due to persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. 8 U.S.C. §§ 1101(a)(42)(A), 1158(b)(1)(B)(i).

This article will provide a discussion about the nexus required for a political opinion asylum case by examining the one central reason standard and how this standard was applied through a recent Ninth Circuit case in: Rodriguez Tornes v. Garland.

What is a “central” reason of primary importance to the persecutors?

A “central” reason is a reason of primary importance to the persecutors, one that is essential to their decision to act. Motive is a “central reason” if the persecutor would not have harmed the applicant if such motive did not exist. However, persecution may be caused by more than one central reason, and an asylum applicant need not prove which reason was dominant. Nevertheless, to demonstrate that a protected ground was "at least one central reason" for persecution, an applicant must prove that such ground was a cause of the persecutors’ acts. Parussimova v. Mukasey, 555 F.3d 734, 741 (9th Cir. 2009).

Direct and indirect evidence can show that persecution was on account of a political opinion. Singh v. Holder, 764 F.3d 1153, 1159 (9th Cir. 2014). "Testimony regarding a persecutor's statements serves as direct evidence that the persecution was motivated by a political opinion ...." Id. Often, an applicant’s persecutors do not explicitly tell them why they are harming them. However, an applicant’s persecutors often do say certain words, or take certain actions which help determine their motivation or reason for harming the applicant.

The one central reason standard has been the basis for litigation and several creative arguments regarding asylum law. Several of our clients’ asylum claims have hinged on whether the Immigration Judge found that a client has established that one central reason for their harm suffered was on account of a protected ground.

Is political opinion recognized as a protected ground for asylum?

Political opinion has been recognized as a protected ground for asylum. The Court has also held that political opinion may constitute more than electoral politics or formal political ideology. In Rodriguez Tornes v. Garland, 993 F.3d 743 (9th Cir. 2021) the Ninth Circuit expanded what may constitute a political opinion and held that feminist political opinion constituted one central reason for the Respondent’s abuse.

In Rodriguez Tornes v. Garland, the panel reasoned that Rodriguez suffered from the most severe acts of violence right after she expressed her rights as a woman. The panel noted that t he fact that some incidents of abuse may also have reflected a dysfunctional relationship was beside the point, as Rodriguez did not need to show that her political opinion—rather than interpersonal dynamics—played the sole or predominant role in her abuse.

This Ninth Circuit case opened the door for the assertion of more political opinion claims based on feminism. For example, a former KPB client was granted asylum based on feminist political opinion a week after this case was ruled on. The client was a woman in her mid-twenties from El Salvador. She met her partner when she was 17 years old, and shortly thereafter moved in with him. She attended school, applied, and was accepted into university during the relationship. When she tried to leave the house to attend University, she was stopped by her partner. When she expressed her desire to continue studying to obtain a higher degree, she was abused. When asked why she could not leave the house, her partner said that she was his woman, and her role is to remain in the house. Our client stated that she did not believe that she should remain in the home and had a right to work equally just like her husband. The client testified at her Individual hearing that she believes that men and women should be treated equally. She testified that she wanted to attend University and wanted to work but her husband would not allow it. She was most frequently beaten and insulted when she attempted to exert her equal rights. This case shows the way that applying the facts from Rodriguez Tornes v. Garland to a client similarly situated can result in a successful asylum grant. The Immigration Judge in San Francisco found that one central reason our client was harmed was on account of her feminist political opinion, and her gender.

A client may have a feminist political opinion that should be explored if:

  • They are a survivor of domestic violence
  • They express that their persecutors said words such as: you are my woman, you must do what I say, you cannot disobey me.
  • The abuse was most severe after the person attempted to exert any rights
  • If the client was prevented from going to work or attending school
  • If the client was prevented from leaving the house
  • If the client felt controlled, and needed to ask for permission to do anything
  • If the clients believe and took steps to show that they believe they should have equal power and rights in a relationship
  • If a client’s partner also abused former partners, their own sisters, and mothers

In the Ninth Circuit political opinion claims based on feminism provide an opportunity for clients to put forth another protected ground as one central reason for their harm suffered.

If you or someone you know has experienced persecution in their home country due to their political opinion, including feminist political opinion, our firm is here to help.

Our experienced team of immigration attorneys has successfully represented clients in asylum cases, utilizing the one central reason standard to establish that the harm suffered was on account of a protected ground. We understand the nuances of asylum law and have seen firsthand how applying the principles from Rodriguez Tornes v. Garland can lead to successful outcomes.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation and explore how your feminist political opinion could be the key to securing protection and a brighter future. Your safety and rights matter, and we are committed to standing by your side throughout the asylum process

Chloe Tomlinson

Chloe Tomlinson is an Associate Attorney at KPB Immigration Law Firm. At KPB, Chloe works on removal defense cases including asylum, withholding of removal, protection under CAT, and also cancellation of removal. Chloe also works on Affirmative asylum cases, and USCIS appearances including, Naturalization interviews, and adjustment of status interviews. Chloe is originally from Baltimore, Maryland. Chloe graduated from Santa Clara Law School in May, 2019. Prior to joining KPB, Chloe attended Santa Clara Law where she was a member of the Immigration Clinic, International Human Rights Clinic, and the Northern California Innocence Project. Chloe enjoys working with clients, and assisting them in their immigration matters. Her favorite aspect of KPB is the collaborative environment, and the willingness of everyone to work as a team in order to get the best possible outcomes for their clients. Chloe is admitted to practice law in the state of California.