Skip to main content


Reset A A Font size: Print

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.

Jasmin Idalia SOLARES GONZALEZ, Petitioner, v. Robert M. WILKINSON, Acting Attorney General, Respondent.

No. 19-72319

Decided: February 26, 2021

Before: HURWITZ and BRESS, Circuit Judges, and CORKER,** District Judge. Karen Sarahi Monrreal-Salazar, Law Offices of Karen S. Monrreal, Reno, NV, for Petitioner Zoe Jaye Heller, DOJ - U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Division/Office of Immigration Litigation, Washington, DC, for Respondent


Jasmin Idalia Solares Gonzalez 1 (“Solares”), a citizen of Guatemala, petitions for review of the Board of Immigration Appeals’ (“BIA”) order dismissing her appeal from an immigration judge's (“IJ”) decision denying her application for withholding of removal. We previously remanded for the BIA to consider (1) whether Solares’ proposed social group is cognizable and (2) whether her social group was a “reason” for her persecution. Gonzalez-Solares v. Whitaker, 742 F. App'x 277, 278 (9th Cir. 2018) (citing Barajas-Romero v. Lynch, 846 F.3d 351, 360 (9th Cir. 2017)). On remand, the BIA determined that the proposed social group was “young, single women who are targeted for harm in Guatemala.” It found this group not cognizable and further found no nexus between this proposed social group and Solares’ claimed persecution.

This Court has jurisdiction to review immigration proceedings under 8 U.S.C. § 1252. We deny the petition for review.

1. We review denials of withholding of removal for substantial evidence and will uphold the denial if it is supported by “reasonable, substantial, and probative evidence on the record considered as a whole.” Wang v. Sessions, 861 F.3d 1003, 1007 (9th Cir. 2017) (internal quotation marks omitted). The substantial evidence standard is “highly deferential” and the petitioner must show that “the evidence not only supports ․ but compels reversal.” Pedro-Mateo v. INS, 224 F.3d 1147, 1150 (9th Cir. 2000) (internal quotation marks omitted). The question of whether a proposed social group is cognizable is a matter of law which we review de novo. Diaz-Reynoso v. Barr, 968 F.3d 1070, 1076 (9th Cir. 2020); Pirir-Boc v. Holder, 750 F.3d 1077, 1081 (9th Cir. 2014).

2. In his initial opinion, the IJ defined the proposed social group as “young, single women who are targeted for harm in Guatemala.” Solares did not challenge this definition in her appeal to the BIA. On remand from this Court, the BIA limited its consideration to the IJ's construction of the group. Solares contends that the BIA improperly conducted its own fact-finding in concluding that the proposed social group was not cognizable [Pet. Br. 7]. But, whether a group constitutes a “particular social group” is a question of law. Mendoza–Alvarez v. Holder, 714 F.3d 1161, 1163 (9th Cir. 2013). Moreover, the BIA relied completely on the IJ's construction of the social group.

3. The BIA concluded that the proposed social group was not cognizable because it was defined by the harm suffered. Solares did not raise a challenge to this ruling in her opening brief and has therefore forfeited it. See Nguyen v. Barr, 983 F.3d 1099, 1102 (9th Cir. 2020); Kohler v. Inter-Tel Techs., 244 F.3d 1167, 1182 (9th Cir. 2001).

4. Solares next argues that she is entitled to withholding of removal because her status as a “young, single woman” was “a reason” she was persecuted. See Barajas-Romero, 846 F.3d at 360. Substantial evidence supports the BIA's denial of this claim. The IJ “specifically found” that the persecutor was motivated by money, not because Solares was a “young, single woman.” The BIA correctly found no clear error in that finding. Indeed, Solares’ own testimony was consistent with that finding. At the hearing, she never suggested that she believed the extorter was motivated by her status as a young, single woman. Instead, she only testified to his demands for money.

The BIA also conducted its own review of the record as a whole and found that it supported the IJ's denial of withholding. Though the extorter mentioned that Solares was a “very pretty girl,” the BIA found that his “focus” in calling her was to “get[ ] money.” The BIA independently applied the Barajas-Romero standard and determined that Solares’ claimed social group status was not “a reason” she was targeted. Although there was some evidence from which the BIA could have found that Solares’ status as a young, single woman was “a reason” she was targeted, the record did not compel that conclusion.



1.   Although Petitioner's name is spelled differently in Petitioner's and Respondent's brief, we will use the spelling of Petitioner's name as it appears in the Guatemalan national register of persons, both decisions of the BIA, and our previous opinion on this matter, Gonzalez-Solares v. Whitaker, 742 F.App'x 277 (9th Cir. 2018).

Copied to clipboard