Brooklyn Law Review


Amanda R. Fell


In 2016, 15.4 million people across the globe, the majority being young women and girls in impoverished communities, were victims of forced marriage. Many of these young victims were forced into marriages because of their place within a particular family that used the marriage to derive a benefit, economic or otherwise, for the family as a whole. Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, to be granted asylum in the United States a person must prove (1) past persecution or fear of future persecution; (2) membership in one of five enumerated protect grounds; and (3) that the persecution is on account of the protected ground (the “nexus” requirement). Successful asylum claims alleging forced marriage as the persecution are granted primarily due to other harms that stem from forced marriage, such as female genital mutilation, domestic violence, and rape. Thus, it is difficult for a person to obtain asylum if the alleged persecution is solely forced marriage. Often these particular forced marriage-based claims are denied due to a failure to prove the “nexus” requirement of asylum claims, or in other words, to prove that the asylum seeker is being, or was, forced into the marriage due to a protected ground. In Matter of L-E-A, the Board of Immigration Appeals defined how the nexus requirement of asylum claims must be proven in cases where the protected ground alleged is membership in the particular social group of the “family unit.” Applying the BIA’s reasoning to the persecution of forced marriage, this note proposes that many forced marriage-based asylum claims can attach themselves to the protected ground of membership in the particular social group of the “family unit,” as a victim's place within a particular family is often a central, motivating factor behind the practice of forced marriage.