Salvadoran Woman Denied Asylum Review After Brutal Gang Rape

Salvadoreña Denied Asylum Review After Being Gang Raped in Her Home Country

A 35-year-old undocumented woman, identified in court documents as E.G.S., has been denied a second review of her asylum case after she declared in a legal document that she was raped multiple times by members of the Mara-18 gang in her home country of El Salvador.

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According to court documents, E.G.S. did not tell her initial asylum reviewer that she was raped because her 12-year-old daughter was present during the interview and because a border patrol agent, who first apprehended them, told E.G.S. that what happened to her in El Salvador was of no concern to him. E.G.S. also didn’t have a lawyer present at her asylum interview, where it was decided that E.G.S. didn’t meet the "credible fear" criteria required to obtain asylum and she was given deportation orders.

The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) have filed multiple petitions for E.G.S. to get another interview, but they have all been denied without explanation, this in spite of E.G.S. submitting a declaration under penalty of perjury stating that she was raped and an assessment from a social worker concluding that E.G.S. is suffering from post traumatic stress due to the extremely violent sexual abuse she has undergone. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights also reviewed her case and wrote a resolution on May 11, urging the U.S. to suspend the deportation of E.G.S. and her daughter until they can further investigate her claims that her civil rights have been violated while in the custody of DHS. RAICES reports in a press release that the family’s deportation is currently on hold because of a complaint filed for this reason.

In a letter published on the RAICES website, the following statement appears:

"E.G.S. has been the victim of multiple rapes. In January 2016, her brother-in-law was murdered, and 4 Mara-18 gang members who murdered him gang raped E.G.S. at her brother-in-law's wake. They then began robbing her, and threatening and stalking her daughter, A.E.G.S. In March 2016, they again raped her. It was this most recent rape, and the persistent threats against her daughter, that convinced E.G.S. to leave El Salvador and flee for safety to the United States.

To make matters worse, when E.G.S. and her daughter arrived in the U.S. they were placed in an immigrant family detention facility in Karnes, Texas. There, E.G.S. says, she and her daughter were forced to share a cell with another woman. That woman, E.G.S. told guards, behaved inappropriately with her daughter, asking her to sleep in her bed and making sexual jokes. E.G.S. claims that her concerns were dismissed until the woman grabbed her daughter’s genitals in the shower. At that point they were moved to a different cell, but her daughter is terrified and refuses to leave her side."

According to lawyers and advocates interviewed in a February 2016 article in the Washington Post, a high percentage of the women that are seeking asylum from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras are doing so because of domestic or sexual violence. Because of gender biases in their home countries, many of them have no paper trail of these crimes committed against them—which is a big reason they have to leave. In fact, E.G.S. says she finally left El Salvador when those gang members threatened to rape her 12-year-old daughter, too.

“I am devastated that I brought my daughter to try to escape the sexual abuse that I suffered in El Salvador and with which she was threatened there,” E.G.S. said in the signed declaration submitted to authorities reviewing her asylum case. “Instead, she has suffered what we were fleeing.”

Gender-based violence has only been accepted as a basis for asylum in this country since the 1990s, and it remains controversial to some people — likely the same kind of people who would love to see us build a wall at the Mexican border.

The so-called family immigration detention system, where E.G.S. and her daughter are currently incarcerated, is also under great scrutiny right now. Last summer, U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee in Los Angeles gave the federal government until October 23, 2015 to release the children contained there, as incarceration of children is a violation of the 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement. As a result of the federal government’s failure to comply with this order, lawyers for the detained families filed a motion with the U.S. District Court of Central District of California on Tuesday night.

PLUS: Witness in 43 Missing Mexican Students Case Seeks Asylum in the U.S.

The family immigration detention system will be one of the most shameful blights in our country’s history for this century. Right under our noses, right in our backyards, women and children seeking rescue from violence and poverty are being held prisoner and subjected to abuse and we do nothing.