Appeals Court Rules that Wealthy Landowners are a Legitimate Persecuted Class when Seeking Asylum

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Being a wealthy landowner and a member of a persecuted class are not mutually exclusive, according to a federal appellate court.


The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this week that two rich men from Latin America, Edgar René Córdoba and Antonio Medina-González, can seek asylum because they had been targeted for extortion and kidnapping by a drug cartel and anti-government rebels.


Córdoba, who hails from Colombia, has been seeking asylum since 2002 in an effort to get himself and his family away from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which is known for kidnapping wealthy citizens and others for ransom. Córdoba told the court he has first-hand knowledge of such trouble—his father was taken by FARC rebels in 1992 and held for a month until the plaintiff paid the rebels off.


Medina-González, currently hiding somewhere in Mexico, is part of “a well-to-do, politically connected family from Zacatecas,” according to Courthouse News Service.


He was abducted in 2008 by the Zetas drug cartel and held for ransom for eight days, until his brother paid a $20,000 ransom. Medina-González then fled to the U.S., but was picked up by immigration officials and deported back to Mexico.


Both men claimed they were eligible for asylum due to being part of a persecuted class—an argument that was rejected by an immigration judge and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA).


The Ninth Circuit ruling did not grant Córdoba or Medina-González asylum. Instead, the judges ordered the BIA to reconsider their cases in light of the fact that landowners can be considered a persecuted class.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Land Barons (by Tim Hull, Courthouse News Service)

Court: Mexican can Argue for Asylum as Landowner (by Bob Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle)

Petitions for Review (Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals) (pdf)


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