AILA Volunteer Lawyers Win Asylum for Detained Central American Mothers and Children

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Case Examples of Refugees in Family Detention, Artesia – AILA Victories

In response to the refugee situation in Central America, President Obama has completely reversed our national policy on the treatment of immigrant families and is detaining them on a massive scale and using an expedited process to deport them. The AILA Pro Bono Project represents hundreds of these families. The examples provided below are cases of detained mothers and children who have been granted asylum. Names are pseudonyms.

· Heidy is a 23-year-old from Honduras. For 6 years, she endured mental and physical abuse from her husband, a drug-trafficker from a powerful family. She was a prisoner in her own home, unable to leave without her husband’s permission. Even when her husband was in prison for taking part in a murder, she couldn’t escape as his friends and family were watching her. She tried filing for divorce, but government officials wouldn’t take the case. She tried to leave him and she and her two children’s lives were threatened at gunpoint. She fled to the United States on the advice of Honduran police who told her that they couldn’t protect her. She was granted asylum in what the judge called a “textbook case.”

· M-C-, 36 years old, fled El Salvador with her 15-year-old daughter to escape her violent partner. In 2003, her husband beat her face until the purple welts glowed. From 2004 and for the next ten years, he beat and serially raped her, about twice a week she remembers. She was not allowed to leave the house; she couldn’t even go to the market alone. He threatened her life and the lives of her family if she attempted to leave him. To prove his point, he beat their daughter in front of her. After a beating and still bloody, M-C- called the police, but the police said it wasn’t their problem since they didn’t catch him in the act. She was granted humanitarian asylum by an immigration judge.

· D.M.L. fled Honduras with her 17-year-old and 8-month-old daughters. She had been beaten, threatened and raped at gunpoint by her husband. D.M.L., 33 years old, met her husband at 15 and married him at 16. The abuse escalated in the past two years, with her husband beating and threatening to kill her and pointing a gun to her head several times. She tried to leave, but her husband found her and their children. D.M.L. didn’t go to the police because she knew they wouldn’t help and she was unaware of other resources. With the help of attorneys and expert witness testifying to the high rates of impunity in female-victim crimes in Honduras, D.M.L. was granted asylum by an immigration judge.

· Laura fled Honduras with her two young children. She was beaten severely by her partner requiring her weeks to heal. After one beating, the police didn’t come when she called and didn’t take a report when she went to the station. When she tried to escape, her partner’s friend found her and threatened her. Another time after a beating, she went to the police to get a restraining order, but the police didn’t do anything to stop her partner and his friends from continuing to stalking and threatening her. With the help of attorneys and evidence including court documents and a letter from a hospital summarizing injuries, she was granted asylum by an immigration judge.

· Rosslyn and her 3-year-old daughter fled Central America because Rosslyn feared for her life as a lesbian living in a country that wouldn’t or couldn’t protect her from abuse because of her sexual orientation. From an early age, Rosslyn was harassed and intimidated because of her sexual orientation. People would stare at her, throw rocks at her, and threaten her harm. She was pressured by family members to engage in sexual activities with men in order to “make her straight” and was raped on several occasions. Rosslyn was eventually forced into a relationship with a man who raped and abused her, but was able to escape when she was 3-months pregnant. She couldn’t risk filing a police report out of fear that the police would also hurt her. Rosslyn was granted asylum by an immigration judge who commended her for being “very brave” to testify to her circumstances.

· Olivia, 23 years old, and her 3-year-old son fled Honduras to escape the violence of her son’s father, Hector. On several occasions, he held her at gun point and threatened to take her life. He also raped her and insulted her in front of her son. Olivia attempted about ten times to escape her partner. Each time, Hector would send members of his gang to look for her and force her to return home threatening death. Olivia attempted to call the police, but with one exception, the police did not answer her call. The one time they answered, they never came to her home. Towards the end, Hector was beating and raping her twice a day. During the last incident, Hector beat and raped her and beat their 3-year-old son with a belt when he tried to intervene. He held a gun to her son’s head before forcing the gun into her mouth. Olivia fled with hopes of finding refuge with her sister in New York. They were apprehended and detained in Artesia for over 3 months. Both Olivia and her son have been diagnosed with post traumatic stress. She was granted asylum by a judge who found her credible and the assaults rising to the level of persecution.

· Christina and her 5-year-old son fled Guatemala and the violence of her husband. When he first beat her, she left with her two sons to live with her parents. She also called the police who said that it wasn’t a serious problem and didn’t help her. For months, she was threatened by phone and in person to return. She returned out of fear when the lives of her parents were threatened. The violence escalated and she was beaten several times a week. Her husband also started hitting their children. She left again with her children. Once, he met her and beat her on the street with a gun. Her mom witnessed the beating and got the police. Christina filed a complaint. Two days later, she found out that the police released her husband after taking a bribe. She returned out of fear for her family and the violence continued to escalate. He started to rape her. He would also shoot at her in the house. Her young son, after a beating from the father, had to be hospitalized with broken bones. Christina took her son and ran to the police. She went before a judge who told her to reconcile with her husband. She went to a different judge who just told her to go to a doctor for her injuries. Neither did anything against her husband. After that, she fled to the U.S. After three months of detention, Christina was granted asylum by an immigration judge

For additional information, contact Su Kim, skim@aila.org, 202-507-7657, Karen Lucas, klucas@aila.org, 202-507-7645, or Greg Chen, gchen@aila.org, 202-507-7615.