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Asylum and Gang Violence

May 5, 2015

Asylum and Gang Violence

Author: U.S. Asylum attorney Alena Shautsova

Asylum and Gang Violence

A claim of asylum connected to gang violence is one of the most common types unfortunately. Immigrants from El Salvador, Mexico and Ecuador are all coming to the U.S. in pursuant of a safe harbor. However, despite the obvious danger of gang violence, not every applicant who is afraid of gangs can succeed in a U.S. Immigration court.
For example, in two recent decisions, the courts came to the opposite conclusions. In one case, the court held a mother of a son who is being actively recruited by the gangs is subject to protection in the US , Hernandez-Avalos v. Lynch, 4/30/15. But in a different case, the court held that a young Salvadorian male who is being recruited by the gangs and resist joining them, is not subject to the protection in the US. Rodas-Orellana v. Holder, 3/2/15.
On its face, it seems that these two decisions are opposites and that something is going wrong… Well, what is going on here is the application of so called social visibility standard. An applicant who presents an asylum claim based on membership in a particular social group must show that the group he/she claims to belong to is socially visible. It is largely depends on the applicant’s attorney’s advocacy skills to persuade the court that the applicant in fact belongs to a group that has certain distinguished characteristics in the society it exists in, and that those characteristics are prominent enough for the “bad guys” to notice them and target members of this particular social group.
This demonstration is not an easy one as shown by the case examples above. In fact, in the first example the only thing that ‘saved’ the claim was the mother-son relationship between the applicant for asylum (claim was filed by mom) and the subject of gangs’ attention. So, the “group” mom was a member of, was …her own family. In the second example, the group was found by the judge too broad to be identifiable, and that is why the claim was denied.
It is obvious that asylum law is developing and is very, very complicated for an average asylum seeker to comprehend. We try to republish all important recent asylum decisions on our website’s Asylum Library: http://www.shautsova.com/immigration-usa/asylum-library.html