Domestic violence victim from El Salvador awarded asylum
Yael Aufgang, Allyson Spacht, and Kat Dore won asylum last week for our El Salvadoran client before Immigration Judge Sheila McNulty. Our client is a young woman who was physically, psychologically, and sexually abused in front of her young daughter by her partner in El Salvador. While the Department of Homeland Security ("DHS") may appeal the decision for policy reasons, Yael and Ally (with Kat's help) created a solid factual and legal record for our client.
El Salvador is reported to be the most dangerous country in the world for women and domestic violence usually goes unpunished. Our client's experience with the police was no different. Compounding our client's abuser's violence and threats against her was her abuser’s membership in a powerful and violent gang over which the government of El Salvador has little to no control. The gang is known to engage in brutal violence against women, particularly those who are perceived as disrespecting gang members.
After an incident in an escalating pattern of abuse, our client took her daughter and fled to her mother's house. Her abuser followed with a machete in hand, stalking and threatening to kill our client and her family for two days before her mother arranged for her to escape to the United States in the middle of the night. She was forced to leave her daughter behind. After our client arrived in the U.S., our client's abuser threatened to kill her and send her body back to her family in pieces if she ever returns to El Salvador. His gang is known to make good on such promises, and our client is certain that she cannot safely return to El Salvador.
Over the course of two hearing dates 10 months apart, Yael and Ally presented testimony from our client, her mother (who also fled El Salvador fearing for her safety in light of the abuser's threats against her), and an expert in Latin American gangs. The government attempted to cast doubt on the witnesses' credibility, which Yael countered through their compelling testimony. After Ally's thorough direct of our expert, Judge McNulty complimented him on his "elegant" presentation. In addition to the testimony, Judge McNulty carefully reviewed the declarations submitted by the testifying witnesses, country condition evidence, and a document regarding our client's history of abuse. In a detailed oral decision read from the bench, Judge McNulty found our client credible. Judge McNulty also held that there is sufficient authority under both the Board of Immigration Appeals and the Seventh Circuit to support our client's membership in a particular social group and that our client had demonstrated a sufficient nexus between the social group of women harmed by domestic violence who cannot leave a relationship and her abuse. Holding that our client satisfied the other asylum requirements, Judge McNulty granted our client asylum.