Hernandez-Cartagena v. Barr, No. 19-1823 (4th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
Cartagena was born in El Salvador in 1996. In 2013, her parents moved to the U.S. Cartagena remained in El Salvador with her newborn daughter and two siblings. Cartagena received a call from a man, calling himself her cousin, who told her to tell her parents "they have to send us $200.” He sent texts saying that if they didn’t send the money an unidentified gang would kill her siblings. Cartagena’s parents sent her money for the gang. The threats continued. Her parents were unable to meet increasing demands. Gang members came to the family home and cut Cartagena's nine-year-old brother with a knife, telling him that “his parents [had] to see.” They later returned and beat Cartagena and her brother and raped Cartagena, threatening to kill her daughter. Cartagena fled to the U.S. with her daughter and siblings.
Cartagena sought asylum based on the persecution that was based on her membership to the Cartagena family social group. An IJ found her credible but concluded that she had failed to demonstrate that the persecution occurred on account of her group membership because “the primary motivation … was monetary gain.” The BIA agreed, finding that family members were harmed because of their failure to meet the extortion demands, rather than their family ties.
The Fourth Circuit reversed. The IJ and BIA failed to consider important evidence that compels the conclusion that family membership was at least one central reason for the persecution. Their conclusions are contrary to law and inconsistent with the evidence of repeated statements that the money being extorted was from Cartegena’s parents and that the persecutors contacted her in order to communicate their threats to her parents.