Washington Law Review


Daniel Compton


With the passage of the Refugee Act of 1980, the United States took an important step toward fulfilling its international human rights obligations. The Act significantly changed American asylum law and the federal courts have played a major role in interpreting the resulting changes. Because of this, the courts often have the last word in determining the practical nature of the human rights commitments embodied in the Refugee Act. In Sanchez-Trujillo v. INS, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals played the role of interpreter in outlining the parameters of a "particular social group" subject to a well-founded fear of persecution. Membership in a social group of this type allows an alien to fall within the Refugee Act's definition of a refugee eligible for asylum. The Sanchez-Trujillo court held that young, urban, working class Salvadoran males of military age (eighteen to thirty) who had not joined the armed forces and had not expressed overt support for the Salvadoran government were not cognizable as a particular social group.

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