In Fernandez Bonilla v. Garland, the ACLU-NH submitted an amicus brief challenging the immigration agency’s legal interpretation, in cases where immigrants are seeking withholding of removal relief, of the statute governing the nexus requirement where an immigrant must show a connection between past or anticipated persecution and one of the five statutorily-protected grounds -- race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.
When Congress enacted the REAL ID Act of 2005, Congress made the burden of establishing nexus such that, for asylum cases, the non-citizen must show that one of the five statutorily-protected grounds was “at least one central reason” for the persecution. However, in the same statute for withholding of removal cases, the non-citizen need only show that one of the five statutorily-protected grounds was “a reason” for the persecution – a lower standard than what exists for asylum.
Immigration courts have not appreciated this distinction in withholding of removal cases and, instead, have used the higher “at least one central reason” standard that should only be used in asylum cases. This interpretation and use of a higher standard by immigration courts in withholding of removal cases has a devasting impact on immigrants seeking this type of relief. Our amicus brief challenges this erroneous legal interpretation.