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The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has asked the U.S. government to stop the deportation of a Salvadoran mother who fled to the United States after the Mara Salvatrucha gang threatened her life and murdered her son. The woman, represented by Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC), is publicly identified only by her initials “D.S.” for her protection.
The commission issued “precautionary measures” against the United States, acknowledging that the woman’s life would be at risk if she were forced to return to El Salvador. D.S. petitioned the commission in March 2016 after the U.S. government rejected her request for asylum and ordered her removed without a hearing, denying her an opportunity to appear before an immigration judge to present her case. She argued that the United States has violated her rights under international law to seek asylum and receive due process. The commission concluded that by deporting her, the U.S. government would cause her irreparable harm and foreclose any redress for her claims.
“D.S. is merely seeking a meaningful opportunity to present her claims for asylum before an immigration judge,” said NIJC National Litigation Coordinator Mark Fleming. “The commission’s ruling gives us hope that D.S. may still have an opportunity to have her voice heard and avoid deportation to a place where she is certain she will be persecuted.”
Since D.S. filed the petition, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has threatened criminal prosecution for her refusal to sign her own deportation documents. D.S. has been detained in the custody of DHS in county jails in southern Illinois and in Missouri since she arrived in the United States in November 2015.
El Salvador, a nation of 6.4 million people, recently was labeled the murder capital of the world and has the world’s highest murder rate of women. Gang members targeted D.S.’s family after her oldest son refused to join. After D.S.’s oldest son fled to the United States, the gang retaliated and murdered her younger son. Unable to obtain protection in El Salvador, D.S.’s daughter fled to the United States. Throughout this ordeal, D.S. also suffered extensive abuse at the hands of her domestic partner, which delayed her own flight until after her children had safely escaped. NIJC met D.S. through a legal presentation and learned that she appeared for her initial asylum screening, known as a credible fear interview, via telephone without a lawyer or any information regarding the asylum process. Based on that cursory interview, the DHS Asylum Office rejected her requests for protection.