In 1991 Lesly Yajayra Perdomo (“Perdomo”), a citizen and native of Guatemala, joined her mother in the United States. In April 2003 the Immigration and Naturalization Service charged her as removable because she unlawfully entered the United States in 1991. Perdomo conceded removability but requested asylum, withholding of removal, and relief under the United Nations Convention Against Torture. Perdomo sought asylum because of her fear of future persecution as a member of a particular social group of “women in Guatemala between the ages of fourteen and forty.” Perdomo explained she was fearful because of: (1) the large number of women killed in Guatemala; (2) the failure of the Guatemalan government to respond appropriately; and (3) the lack of explanation for the killings. The immigration judge denied Perdomo’s requests. The Board of Immigration Appeals (the “BIA”) affirmed the denials and rejected the particular social group definition, “women in Guatemala between the ages of fourteen and forty” and Perdomo’s revised group definition, “all women in Guatemala,” as too broad to qualify for protection. The Ninth Circuit granted Perdomo’s petition for review and held that prior case law established that, “women in a particular country, regardless of ethnicity or clan membership, could form a particular social group.” The court noted that the size and breadth of the group, “all women in Guatemala,” did not preclude it from qualifying as a protected social group and that the BIA erred when it held to the contrary. The court remanded the case to the BIA to determine whether “all women in Guatemala” is a particular social group and, if so, whether Perdomo qualified for asylum.
Women and Justice: Court: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
A jury convicted Matthew Dowd of violating the federal interstate domestic violence law. The events giving rise to the conviction occurred over an 8-month period between May and December 2002. During that time, Dowd forced his former girlfriend, Danna Johnson, to travel throughout Montana, Colorado, and Utah with him while he was fleeing authorities. During the forced excursion, Dowd repeatedly subjected Ms. Johnson to physical and psychological abuse, including rape, choking, and death threats. Dowd contested the conviction, arguing that the jury did not have sufficient evidence that he forced or coerced Ms. Johnson to cross state lines, as the statute required. The court reasoned that to convict a defendant of violating the federal interstate domestic violence statute by causing a spouse or intimate partner to travel in interstate or foreign commerce by force, coercion, duress, or fraud, the government must show that the spouse or intimate partner was a non-consenting participant in the interstate travel. Despite evidence that there were various occasions during the several-months-long interstate journey where Ms. Johnson was outside of Dowd’s presence and did not seek assistance from others or attempt to escape, the court found that Ms. Johnson was not a willing participant in the extended journey, and that sufficient evidence supported a finding that Dowd violated the federal statute. That evidence included Dowd’s persistent actual and threatened physical, sexual, and psychological abuse, and threats of retribution against Ms. Johnson’s family if she left him. Accordingly, Dowd’s conviction was upheld.