Just as the business day was drawing to a close on Monday, April 13th, we received a phone call from IJ Martinez. Unfortunately, the news was disappointing and devastating for E-. While the IJ found her credible and noted for the record that the rape she suffered amounts to torture, he determined that he is unpersuaded by E-‘s claim that she is unable to relocate in her home country, Guatemala. The IJ noted for the record that was relying on our submission regarding country conditions for the proposition that there are women’s shelters in Guatemala, butt E- failed to take advantage of them. This seems incomprehensible given that our evidentiary submission includes over 200 pages of country conditions and expert opinions that support E-s claim and thoroughly undermine the IJ’s reliance on the availability of women’s shelters. Moreover, the passages about shelters are themselves brief and unpersuasive.
The IJ also noted that E- had attempted to enter the U.S. on three occasions, having borrowed money each time to pay a smuggler; he said that E- could have put that money to better use by applying it toward relocating within her home country.
I’m having a very hard time understanding the logic of the IJ’s position on the issue of relocating. (He certainly made it easy for the OCC trial attorney, who presented no evidence of anything having to do with relocation.)
The IJ found E-‘s testimony to be credible and consistent. He read into the record that rape amounts to torture; E- was brutally gang-raped, yet the IJ denied her CAT claim. He gave full weight to the psychologist’s report that included a diagnosis of “very severe post-traumatic stress syndrome,” yet he was somewhat dismissive because he found that the psychologist doesn’t have the credentials to qualify as an expert on relocation – even though we didn’t present her as a relocation expert. The IJ essentially ignored our evidence on country conditions, but for the brief passages that referenced the existence of women’s shelters, however inadequate those same passages found them to be.
Most importantly, E- was falling to pieces when we spoke on the phone shortly after the IJ read his decision. It’s hard to imagine a more heart-wrenching moment than E- struggling to speak through her sobs, overwhelmed by the heightened prospect of returning to her home country, coupled with her complete and utter fear of the threats against the lives of her children and herself. We spoke again the next morning, and while E- was still very upset she was slightly more composed. She questions whether she has the strength to fight any more and said that she’d prefer to go back to her home country to face the near certainty of death rather than to drag things out through an appeal only to face the same end. We agreed to speak again to see if she will consider filing an appeal with the help of the pro bono volunteers who stand ready to do that.
While we seem to have issues that may prevail on appeal, right now that’s not enough to patch up E-‘s shattered spirit. The hope here is that she will agree to file an appeal and give us another chance to help her and her children.
On Tuesday afternoon (the 14th) I posted a Listserv message summarizing the IJ’s decision. About an hour later I received a call from Christina Brown who had already begun to assemble an appellate team from among the Artesia and Dilley / Karnes veterans. This is a great example of the amazing spirit that characterizes this pro bono project. We look forward to an opportunity to convince the Board of Immigration Appeals to reverse the IJ’s decision.
In the meantime, E- and her kids and many other families continue to suffer in this hell that our government calls family detention. It’s a cruel and inhumane concept, a minefield of misery that needs to stop. It simply must stop.
Written by Frank Johnson, AILA Member and Volunteer
If you are an AILA member who wants to volunteer at a family detention center, please go to the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project page or feel free to contact Maheen Taqui at firstname.lastname@example.org – we could really use your help.
To watch videos of the volunteers sharing their experiences, go to this playlist on AILA National’s YouTube page. To see all the blog posts about this issue select Family Detention as the category on the right side of this page.