In a decision issued last week, the Board of Immigration Appeals held that the "one central reason" standard for asylum also applied to withholding of removal pursuant to INA § 241(b)(3). See Matter of C-T-L-, 25 I&N Dec. 341 (BIA Sept. 14, 2010).

Under the REAL ID Act, an alien is eligible for asylum only if "one central reason" for the feared persecution is race, religion, nationality, particular social group or political opinion. See INA § 208(b)(i)(B)(I).  Now the BIA has held that the same standard applies to claims for withholding of removal under INA § 241(b)(3).  The Board reasoned that "all indications are that Congress intended to apply the 'one central reason' standard uniformly to both asylum and withholding claims:"

Applying this standard to withholding claims has two distinct practical advantages. The first is that it will avoid the application of the different standards adopted by the courts of appeals in "mixed motive" cases....  The second is that the burden of proof standard would be consistent between asylum and withholding of removal claims.

What motivates a persecutor?

The BIA found that "Applying a different standard in 'mixed-motive' cases to asylum and withholding of removal would create inherent difficulties because it would require a bifurcated analysis on a single subissue in the overall case."  "An application for asylum necessarily includes the similar but lesser form of relief of withholding of removal....  applying the same standard promotes consistency and predictability, which are important principles in immigration law."

The Board concluded:

Considering the language and design of the statute, congressional intent to create a uniform standard, and the inherent difficulties in applying different burden of proof standards on the subissue of the persecutor's motive, we conclude that an applicant for withholding of removal must demonstrate that race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion was or will be "at least one central reason" for the claimed persecution.

With that, the Board dismissed the alien's appeal.

While consistency is a laudable goal, the fact remains that in the REAL ID Act, Congress amended the standard for asylum and not the standard for withholding of removal.  I imagine that we have not heard the last of this issue.  A petition for review to the Ninth Circuit seems likely, and we will see how that court interprets the statute.