(CN) - Fear of recruitment by street gangs in El Salvador is not enough to secure an illegal immigrant asylum in the United States, the 1st Circuit ruled.
The Boston-based appellate panel denied Salvadoran national Yulma Marili Mendez-Barrera a review of a Board of Immigration Appeals decision that denied her application for asylum.
Mendez-Barrera, who came to the United States illegally through Mexico in 2006, claimed that she was a member of a distinct group of "young [El Salvadoran] women recruited by gang members who resist such recruitment," and deserved protection from potential violence and persecution in her home country.
She testified that since 2003 her community activities, including participating in athletics at her school, regularly attending a local church and engaging in local politics made her a target for recruitment by gang members, who threatened "sexual abuse if she did not acquiesce" and join the gang.
However, to prove persecution on the basis of group membership, the asylum-seeker must "show at a bare minimum that she is a member of a legally cognizable social group" that is "socially visible," Judge Bruce Selya wrote for the panel. Mendez-Barrera could not do this.
"The petitioner failed to provide even a scintilla of evidence to this effect," Selya wrote. "By the same token, she failed to pinpoint any group characteristics that render members of the putative group socially visible in El Salvador. [The] proposed group does not supply an adequate profile for establishing membership. The putative group is simply too amorphous. This means, perforce, that the putative group - 'young women recruited by gang members who resist such recruitment' - is not socially visible."
Mendez-Barrera also failed to convince the panel she was liable to be persecuted for her religious and political beliefs, as her testimony lacked specifics.
"Holding particular religious or political beliefs, without more, is not sufficient to show persecution on account of those beliefs," Selya wrote. "There must be evidence that the would-be persecutors knew of the beliefs and targeted the belief-holder for that reason. As the petitioner herself relates, gang members wanted her to sell drugs at her school, and their recruitment efforts stemmed from their desire to make money with the petitioner's help."
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