Gonzales v. Thomas

PETITIONER: Alberto R. Gonzales, Attorney General
RESPONDENT: Michelle Thomas et al.
LOCATION: Board of Immigration Appeals

DOCKET NO.: 05-552
DECIDED BY: Roberts Court (2006-2009)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 547 US 183 (2006)
DECIDED: Apr 17, 2006
GRANTED: Apr 17, 2006

Facts of the case

A South African family sought asylum in the United States under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which grants asylum to those who cannot return to another country because of “persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.” Their application for asylum claimed that they feared persecution if they returned to South Africa because of their (1) political opinions and (2) “membership in a particular social group,” which they argued included both their race and their kinship with a particular well-known white South African. The immigration judge denied their application, and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) affirmed. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that association with a particular family may fall within the scope of the “particular social group” language in the INA.

Question

Can a particular family constitute a “particular social group” for the purposes of granting asylum under the Immigration and Nationality Act?