Asylum: Mental Illness May Win Your Case
Who Qualifies for Asylum?An applicant is eligible for asylum if they fear
persecution (extreme harm) in their home country due to their race, religion, national origin, political opinion, or particular social group. The courts are always interpreting the term "particular social group." As a result, persons qualify for asylum who may not have qualified before.
What is a Particular Social Group (PSG)?To qualify as a member of a particular social group, the applicant must be someone who shares "common, immutable characteristics" with other persons of the group. In other words, these traits are unchangeable and fundamental to their identity. Examples of particular social groups include homosexuals, women who have been the victim of domestic violence, and individuals required to enter into a forced marriage.
How Does Mental Illness Fit in the PSG Definition?In the new case, the applicant claimed that his particular social group was that of persons who suffer from a mental illness, are indigent, and lack family support. The immigration judge denied his case, stating that the trait of being indigent or lacking family support could change at any moment. Immigration Judges have often denied asylum for persons who apply because they are harmed in their home countries on account of being perceived as rich.
Why Was This Case Different?Even though the applicant could suddenly become rich or suddenly be supported by members of his family, the Board of Immigration Appeals decided that mental illness was not something that he could change. In other words, so long as ONE of the three (or more) traits is fundamental to a person's identity, they are eligible for asylum. Although the author is a Board-certified immigration expert, this guide is intended as general information and not specific legal advice. This communication does not create an attorney-client relationship. Schedule a consultation with an attorney to address individual concerns.