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Woman Threatened By Gang Granted Asylum

by David Cleveland, Esq.

An alien may be granted asylum if her "membership in a particular social group" was at least one central reason for the harm she suffered. INA 208(b)(1)(B)(i).

An immigration judge in Baltimore, MD recently granted asylum to a woman from Guatemala who was a member of this particular social group: "young women who refuse to be the victims of violent sexual predation of gang members." In re Sandra, (IJ Jill DuFresne, Baltimore, MD, November 8, 2006). The 23-page decision is available at the Resource Library of the U.S. Committee of Refugees and Immigrants.

Sandra was born in Guatemala in 1978. While living in Guatemala City in 2002, a young man approached her on the street and grabbed her buttock. In the following weeks, he often followed her home from work. He said he wanted to be her boyfriend. Once, he touched her right breast. She refused his advances. Often, the young man was accompanied by two other men, who identified themselves as being members of the "18's," which is a gang in Guatemala.

Once, while she was waiting for a bus, the men pushed and grabbed her. Another time, while at a phone booth, they approached her and put a knife to her neck. While walking with her baby in her arms, they approached her and put a knife to her waist; one man said, "I will kill you."

Sandra reported these events to Police Station #11; however, the police thereafter did nothing.

After arriving in the United States, Sandra had three sessions with a psychologist; Dr. Joe Gorin, who testified in court. He stated that he believed Sandra had formerly suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder while living in Guatemala. However, now, she was improved, although she was depressed and had "severe anxiety."

The IJ found that Sandra had suffered past persecution. Being followed "almost constantly," having a knife held to her body, and being threatened with death, rises to the level of "persecution."

The IJ found that Sandra had two "immutable characteristics: "

  1. she was female;
  2. and,
  3. she refused "to be sexually victimized by gang members."

  4. Opinion at page 19. See: Fatin v. INS, 12 F.3d 1233, 1239 (3rd Cir. 1993).

Comments of the author:

The phrase "ordinary street crime" does not appear in the Opinion. Many IJ's would deny this claim, ruling that there is no asylum for victims of street crime.

Sandra suffered no real physical harm. Many IJ's deny such claims, ruling that the harm suffered does not rise to the level of "persecution."

Congratulations to Jay Marks, Esq. of Silver Spring, MD, who argued the case.

About The Author

David Cleveland, Esq. is a staff attorney at Catholic Community Services of Washington DC. He is a past Chair of the AILA Asylum Committee.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.