In a recent decision by the full United States Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, young Albanian women who live alone do meet the definition of a "social group" and, thus, can be given asylum in the United States, so long as they meet the other criteria required of them. Although this ruling does not directly affect Reading, it does provide some guidance to immigration judges adjudicating asylum applications in Pennsylvania.
Membership in a particular social group alone, however, will not get these young Albanian women asylum. Rather, they must also show that they have a well-founded fear of persecution or had previously been persecuted because of their membership in this social group. Without both components, any asylum applicant would be denied.
The woman at the center of this case had been left in Albania by her parents in 2001 after they moved to the United States. She had lived with her sister shortly, but her sister also left the country, leaving her alone again. Soon after her parents left, the leader of a gang involved in human trafficking and prostitution started stalking her. Fortunately, she was able to escape to the United States before she was kidnapped and sold into prostitution, but then she needed to prove she deserved asylum.
Asylum is especially difficult to prove, but the stakes are also astronomically high. If someone is denied asylum, he or she will be returned to a country in which he or she could be imprisoned, tortured, killed or otherwise persecuted just for being who he or she is. Working with an asylum attorney is crucial to successfully getting the protection asylum seekers need.
Source: Courthouse News Service, “Sex Trafficking Risks Give Albanians Asylum,” Elizabeth Warmerdam, Aug. 13, 2013