Court to Rehear Asylum Bid by Albanian Women

     CHICAGO (CN) – The 7th Circuit will rehear arguments to determine whether young Albanian women in danger of being trafficked for prostitution constitute a social group that meets the requirements for asylum.
     Johana Cece, an Albanian citizen, asked the 7th Circuit last October to review an order by the Board of Immigration Appeals denying her application for asylum.
     Cece entered the United States in 2002, using a fake Italian passport, when she was 23-years-old. Because she was a young woman living alone, Cece told immigration authorities, she feared being kidnapped and forced to join a prostitution ring. Cece said she had been harassed by the leader of a Muslim gang known for forcing women into prostitution and that Albanian police had refused to help her.
     A three-judge panel for the 7th Circuit split 2-1, rulingthat Cece’s proposed social group was not sufficiently well-defined.
     Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook and Judge Daniel Manion formed the majority, writing that the group “is defined solely by the persecution feared by its members and lacks the type of common, immutable characteristics otherwise required of a particular social group.”
     Judge Ilana Rovner dissented.
     “In this case, although it is true that these women are linked by the persecution they suffer-being targeted for prostitution-they are also united by the common and immutable characteristic of being women between the ages of sixteen and twenty-seven who meet the profile of the traffickers,” she wrote.
     Rovner pointed out that the 7th Circuit has recognized many vague social groups, including “children who escaped after being enslaved by Ugandan guerillas, women who are sold or forced into marriage and involuntary servitude, and landowning cattle farmers targeted by Columbian rebels.”
     The court vacated its prior ruling and agreed to rehear the case en banc before all judges in active service. The date for oral argument has not yet been announced.

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