Women and Justice: Court: Court of Appeals Seventh District

Domestic Case Law

Cece v. Holder, 733 F.3d 662 (7th Cir. 2013) Court of Appeals Seventh District (2013)

Gender discrimination, Sexual violence and rape, Trafficking in persons

Cece, a young Albanian woman fled Albania to avoid trafficking and prostitution rings which target young women living alone. While living alone in Korce, Cece caught the attention of one of the leaders of a well-known prostitution ring. He followed, harassed, and threatened Cece. Her reports of the assault to the authorities were perfunctorily dismissed. Thereafter, Cece fled to the United States (“U.S.”) using a fraudulently procured Italian passport, whereupon she filed for asylum and withholding of removal within the one-year statutory period. Her claim was based on fear of returning to Albania as a young woman living alone. The immigration judge granted Cece’s asylum claim finding that her fear of returning to Albania was well founded because she belonged to a particular social group composed of “young Albanian women who are targeted for prostitution by traffickers” and that the government of Albania was unable or unwilling to protect such women. The Board of Immigration Appeals vacated the judge’s decision, holding that the judge erred in finding that Cece had established membership in a particular social group. On appeal, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals found that Cece was a member of particular social group cognizable under 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(42)(A) and therefore eligible for asylum. Specifically, the Court found that the particular social group identified by the immigration judge – young Albanian women living alone and thus vulnerable to being trafficked – met the immutability requirements of 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(42)(a) because it is based on common characteristics that members of the group either cannot change or should not be required to change.



United States v. Sawyer, 733 F.3d 228 (7th Cir. 2013) Court of Appeals Seventh District (2013)

Trafficking in persons

Defendant Datqun Sawyer was convicted of sex trafficking in violation 18 U.S.C. § 1591(a). On appeal, Sawyer admitted to forcing at least seven teenage girls he knew to be minors to work as prostitutes for his benefit but challenged his conviction on grounds that the jury was improperly instructed. Sawyer argued that the jury should have been instructed to acquit if the Government did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he knew or intended his criminal conduct to affect interstate commerce. The Court held that the clause in 18 U.S.C. § 1591 requiring the defendant’s conduct to affect interstate commerce merely establishes the basis for Congress’s power to legislate and is not subject to any mens rea requirement. The Court explained it would be unreasonable for Congress to limit its enforcement ability to the “trifling number” of sex-traffickers who know or intend their conduct to impact interstate or international commerce as understood under Constitutional law. As such, the Court held that a conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 1591(a) does not require proof of the defendant’s knowledge of the implications of his conduct on interstate commerce.