FOR REVIEW OF AN ORDER OF THE BOARD OF IMMIGRATION APPEALS
MacMurray and MacMurray & Associates on brief for
J. Tucker, Trial Attorney, Office of Immigration Litigation,
Civil Division, U.S. Department of Justice, Benjamin C.
Mizer, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Civil
Division, and Terri J. Scadron, Assistant Director, Office of
Immigration Litigation, on brief for respondent.
Lynch, Thompson, and Kayatta, Circuit Judges.
del Carmen Vega-Ayala petitions for review of the Board of
Immigration Appeals' ("BIA") affirmance of an
immigration judge's ("IJ") denial of her
application for asylum and withholding of removal. Vega-Ayala
argued that she had suffered past persecution in El Salvador
and that she had a well-founded fear of future persecution on
account of her membership in a particular social group. She
defined that group as "Salvadoran women in intimate
relationships with partners who view them as property."
The BIA held that Vega-Ayala failed to establish that her
proposed social group shares immutable characteristics and
has social distinction, and found her ineligible for asylum
or withholding of removal. She now argues that a reasonable
factfinder would be compelled to find she had proven that she
is entitled to relief. We deny her petition.
is a native and citizen of El Salvador. On March 10, 2010,
she entered the United States at or near Naco, Arizona
without admission or inspection and was detained by
Department of Homeland Security ("DHS") officials.
After an interview on April 7, 2010, a DHS asylum officer
determined that Vega-Ayala had a credible fear of persecution
in El Salvador. See 8 C.F.R. § 208.30(d). On
April 13, 2010, DHS served Vega-Ayala with a Notice to
Appear, which charged her with removability pursuant to 8
U.S.C. § 1182(a)(7)(A)(i)(I). See 8 C.F.R.
§§ 208.30(f), 1003.14(a). An IJ issued an order of
release on May 6, 2010, and Vega-Ayala has since lived with
her sister in Chelsea, Massachusetts.
written pleadings, filed on December 1, 2011, Vega-Ayala
conceded removability and indicated her intent to seek
asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the
Convention Against Torture ("CAT"). On February 26,
2013, Vega-Ayala and counsel appeared before an IJ in Boston,
Massachusetts (after a transfer of venue from El Paso,
Texas). At this hearing for her application for relief,
Vega-Ayala testified as follows:
2007, she met Juan Hernandez in El Salvador at a university
and carried on a relationship with him for approximately
eighteen months. The two never lived together during their
relationship and saw each other approximately twice a week.
She never visited his home, and he never prevented her from
studying at the university.
grew violent as the relationship progressed. Both in public
and private, he spoke "offensive" words to her and
would grab her in such a way as to "cause black and blue
marks . . . on [her] arms." In the spring of 2008,
Hernandez took Vega-Ayala to a hotel and raped her. She did
not tell her family members about the incident because she
was ashamed. Nor did she notify the police because she
believed that the Salvadoran police "don't really do
anything with domestic violence." Vega-Ayala became
pregnant as a result of the rape and gave birth to a daughter
on January 14, 2009. Hernandez initially refused to recognize
the daughter as his child.
last year of their relationship, Hernandez was incarcerated
on an unrelated kidnapping charge. There is no record
evidence that Vega-Ayala visited him in jail, but she did ask
him for financial assistance. In February 2009, Hernandez
purchased a house in Vega-Ayala's name, and she and her
daughter lived there for approximately one year between 2009
and 2010. A man, whom Vega-Ayala believed to be
Hernandez's brother, came by the house once or twice a
testified that Hernandez would call and threaten her from
jail every day. She said she continued to take his calls and
reside at the house he purchased because she was ashamed of
having his child out of wedlock and because she was afraid
that he would hurt her or her family members. When Vega-Ayala
left El Salvador in 2010, Hernandez was still incarcerated.
further testified that Hernandez, after being released from
jail, threatened her mother. He also contacted Vega-Ayala in
the United States at some point in 2012, when she last heard
from him. She was afraid to return to El Salvador because she
believed that Hernandez would kidnap her and demand money
from her siblings who reside in the United States. She left
El Salvador alone and put her daughter in the care of her
mother. She is unmarried and continues to live with her
sister in Chelsea, Massachusetts. Her daughter remains in El
Salvador with her mother. She admitted to telling immigration
authorities, when she was initially detained in March 2010,