Lopez-Benitez v. Garland, No. 22-1808 (4th Cir. 2024)Annotate this Case
In the case before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, the petitioner, Jose Lince Lopez-Benitez, a native of El Salvador, sought review of the Board of Immigration Appeals’ decision which upheld an Immigration Judge's denial of his asylum request, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). Lopez had entered the United States illegally in 2013 and was subjected to extortion by the gang MS-13 in El Salvador, but he had never been physically harmed. He argued that his persecution was due to his membership in two particular social groups: the family of his father, who was legally residing in the U.S., and "Salvadoran males without male protection."
The Court denied Lopez's petition, finding that he had failed to demonstrate a central reason for his persecution was his membership in a protected social group, which is a requirement for asylum or withholding of removal. The Court highlighted that while Lopez testified once that his father's presence in the U.S. was the reason why MS-13 targeted him, he provided no evidence to support this claim. Moreover, no other members of his father's family in El Salvador were targeted by MS-13. The Court concluded that the evidence most supported a finding that the only central reason that Lopez was targeted was because MS-13 extorted indiscriminately.
Additionally, the Court found that Lopez had forfeited his CAT claim by not adequately raising it in his brief to the Board, meaning he had failed to exhaust administrative remedies for this claim, thus barring the Court from reviewing it.