Lawyer claims she did not understand the asylum process and deportation would violate international human rights laws.
A 39-year-old woman from El Salvador, who came across the border illegally in November, is now appealing her scheduled deportation to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, claiming she fears for her life if she is returned to El Salvador.
The woman, only known as “D.S.” (full name not given for her protection) is being held by the Department of Homeland Security in a Missouri jail, pending her deportation. She is being represented by the National Immigrant Justice Center, who met her through a jail “Know Your Rights” legal information presentation.
[pullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“Unfortunately, the U.S. asylum screening process failed D.S.,” said Mark Fleming, NIJC’s national litigation coordinator. He said she was denied due process and the right to seek asylum, and that her deportation would violate international human rights laws.[/pullquote]
NIJC claims that D.S. appeared for her initial asylum screening, known as a credible fear interview, via telephone without a lawyer and without any information regarding the asylum process, and said she did not get a proper chance to tell U.S. immigration officials about her fears for her life if she is returned to El Salvador.
D.S. said she was frightened and depressed at the time of the interview. She had no lawyer at that time and said she did not understand the process.
“The fact that someone like D.S. cannot pass a credible fear interview raises serious concerns about the ability of this screening process to ensure bona fide asylum seekers have access to protection,” said Ashley Huebner, managing attorney, NIJC’s Asylum Project. “DHS detains traumatized survivors of persecution and forces them to present complex legal arguments without lawyers or information about their rights, and without access to evidence. Worse, when errors are made in this process, asylum seekers are denied judicial review to overturn those errors.”
All asylum seekers have the right to have a consultant present when they are interviewed regarding whether they have a credible fear of returning to their country, but the U.S. government will not pay for the consultant.
D.S. said the Mara Salvatrucha gang threatened her life after her older son refused to join the gang and fled to the U.S. In retaliation the gang murdered her younger son, and demanded she surrender her daughter as a gang “girlfriend”. The daughter also fled to the U.S., and after suffering abuse from her domestic partner, D.S. fled as well.
She said she is afraid to return to El Salvador. She had to close her small store in a hamlet outside of the coastal town of La Union because gang members constantly extorted her for products and cash, and tried to make her take food to gang members in jail.
Tens of thousands of people from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala have come into the U.S. illegally in recent years, including many of the gang members as well.
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