Tomas-Ramos v. Garland, No. 20-1201 (4th Cir. 2022)Annotate this Case
Tomas-Ramos, a citizen of Guatemala, reentered the U.S. illegally in 2018. A removal order previously entered against him was reinstated. Tomas-Ramos expressed a fear of returning to Guatemala because gang members had threatened to kill him for resisting their recruitment of his son. An asylum officer conducted a screening interview and determined that Tomas-Ramos failed to establish a reasonable fear of harm and was not entitled to relief from his reinstated removal order. The asylum officer recognized that Tomas-Ramos might have been threatened because of his relationship to his son but held that immediate family is not a qualifying “particular social group” under 8 U.S.C. 1231(b)(3)(A) because it “lacks social distinction.” An IJ agreed.
The Fourth Circuit vacated and remanded. The primary ground for the IJ’s decision was an erroneous conclusion that there was no “nexus” between the harm Tomas-Ramos faced and a protected ground. The record compels the conclusion that Tomas-Ramos was persecuted on account of a protected ground, in the form of his family ties. The IJ’s finding that “[Tomas-Ramos] can relocate” is not an independent ground for affirmance, because that finding is called into question by the determination that Tomas-Ramos has established past persecution.