The stories below are based off real client experiences. However, all names and specific details have been altered as a matter of privacy and confidentiality.
A humanitarian refugee crisis has engulfed much of Europe for several months. While the U.S. debates its role in the crisis, it continues to ignore the much closer humanitarian crisis south of its border. Last summer, hundreds of thousands of women and children came to the U.S. border seeking asylum from Central America. Like some European countries, many anti-immigrant groups called it an “invasion” and some even directly confronted the immigrants.
While the two crises share many similarities, they differ in one important way. The individuals in Europe fleeing violence mainly in the Middle East and Africa are considered refugees. The individuals fleeing violence in Central America are not. That designation means a world of difference. Refugees are subject to international protections provided by the United Nations and other non-governmental organizations. Although refugees often spend several years in refugee camps while they are processed, they are generally protected from the violence of their old countries.
On the other side, immigrants from Central America are not considered refugees. Although these brutally violent gangs have infiltrated every level of government, the U.S. Government has refused to recognize them as refugees. Despite calls from the United Nations for the U.S. to recognize the refugee crisis, the government continues to treat them as migrants. As such, they are subject to the restrictive asylum laws on the U.S. Although the governments in Central America are unable to protect its citizens from the violence, most people fleeing the violence do not qualify for asylum under U.S. law. Under the law, people fleeing general states of violence are not refugees. The law draws a line in the sand and few can cross it. This leaves immigrants from Central America in the U.S., like Madalyn and her son, with few options against deportation.
Madalyn lived in El Salvador with her 11 year old son, Marco. Marco loved to play soccer and play outside. Unfortunately, the soccer fields were a gathering spot for gang members also. These gang members recruit children even as young as Marco to commit crimes, including extortion and murder. Marco was befriended by these young gang members who planned to lure him into the gang with promises of money and power. These same gang members also harassed Madalyn and threatened her and her son with death if they interfered with their criminal organization. These were not empty threats. El Salvador is one of the deadliest countries in the U.S. Particularly, women and children are at risk of murder at the hands of the mostly male gangs.
Madalyn fled El Salvador. After making the dangerous trip through Mexico with her son, she came to the U.S. border seeking asylum. Although she is set for a trial on her asylum claim, she faces an uncertain future. If she loses, she and her children will be deported to El Salvador, where she will face even greater harm after deportation. Madalyn is one of thousands of stories of Central American refugees. Women and children continue to flee brutal violence in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras at incredible rates. The U.S. cannot continue to ignore this refugee crisis.
DISCLAIMER: Nothing in this blog should be construed as legal advice. If you are in removal proceedings or need legal advice on your immigration case, please contact an immigration attorney.