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.
This summer was dominated by headlines of the increased migration of mostly women and children from Central America, namely Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Immigration opponents used fear to exaggerate the issue. Some called it an invasion. Some blamed the migration on President Obama’s DACA program. Those stories have mostly subsided. However, the issues that caused the migration from these Central American countries have not changed. Many of the women and children, like Linda and her children, came to the U.S. fleeing abusive and violent partners and a government unable to protect them.
Linda was born and raised in Honduras. From the age of 20 to 22, she lived in her own personal hell. She rarely left her home. She either was not allowed to or was too afraid to leave. Her boyfriend controlled her emotionally and physically. He often came home drunk or high and beat her with a chain or belt on the stomach or back (so clothes would cover the bruises). He also often beat her 5 year old daughter.
One night, while Linda’s boyfriend was passed out on the couch, she fled to a friend’s house in a neighboring town. Two days later, though, her boyfriend, with the help of his friends, found her and dragged her back to the home. He beat her again, held a gun to her head and threatened to kill her and her family if she ever left again.
Unfortunately, this type of violence is common in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. Due to a culture dominated by masculinity and violence, this treatment is often unreported by the victims, either because they are afraid of what will happen if they report the violence or because the authorities would not help. The crime rate in the region is one of the highest in the world. The police forces in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras are inadequate and unable to stop gang violence, much less domestic violence.
Like many other women in the region, Linda’s only option was to flee. Eventually, with the help of her family, she was able to purchase a bus ticket to Mexico for her and her daughter and then crossed into the U.S.
In a recent case, the Board of Immigration Appeals recognized that women who suffer domestic abuse in their home country may be eligible for asylum. Asylum may be granted to individuals who can show a objective and subjective fear of harm on account of a protected characteristic, in this case the shared past experience as a victim of domestic abuse. After years of uncertainty, the Courts have finally recognized the cruelty in sending women like Linda and her children back to their countries and back to their abusers. Now it is time for the general public to understand this as well.
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.