Gang-Related Asylum from El Salvador

We have secured a grant of asylum in immigration court for a young woman from El Salvador who was persecuted because of her religious beliefs and was being forced to join a gang in her country.

The challenge in this case was to prove that our client was targeted by gangs in El Salvador because of her religion. Religion is one of the five enumerated grounds (the other four are race, nationality, membership in a particular social group, and political opinion) that establish a basis for asylum in the United States if a person was persecuted because of a corresponding characteristic in their home country. Coercion to join or stay in a gang, widespread in many Central American countries, by itself does not constitute a basis for asylum in the United States. That is why in cases involving asylum-seekers who escaped gang violence in their countries, it is necessary to connect gang brutality with one of the enumerated grounds, which is often difficult to do.

In order to be granted asylum, the applicant must prove that he/she qualifies as a refugee. According to the official definition, a refugee is a person who, “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his/her nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself/herself of the protection of that country; or who not having a nationality and being outside the country of his/her former habitual residence.., is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it”.

In this particular case, our client was persecuted by members of Mara-18, a criminal gang heavily present in El Salvador. Gang members were forcing our client to abandon her Christian beliefs, her church, and her pastor who preached against gangs, threatening to kill her if she refused. Attorneys at I.S. law Firm successfully showed that while the goal of our client’s persecutors was to force her to participate in gang activities, they were doing so by trying to overcome our client’s religious convictions and by trying to distance her from her church, which was also opposed to gangs’ criminal activities. We demonstrated that gang members actively sought to punish our client for her strong Christian beliefs, which prevented her from participating in gang activities. We also showed that the government of El Salvador was unable or unwilling to control the gangs, as evidenced by the fact that police did not provide any protection to our client. Therefore, our lawyers proved that our client suffered past persecution in El Salvador.

As required for all asylum cases, attorneys at I.S. Law Firm also demonstrated that our client had a well-founded fear of persecution if she was forced to return to her home country, evidenced by the fact that the situation with gang violence in El Salvador has not improved. In fact, objective evidence such as U.S. Department of State and Amnesty International reports indicates that gang killings, gang rape, sexual exploitation of female gang recruits, and other crimes against women and girls are widespread and on the rise in El Salvador. Gangs including Mara-18, also known as 18th Street Gang or M18, and Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS, Mara, and MS-13, have continued their brutal activities, while Salvadoran authorities have remained ineffective and unsupportive toward victims of gang crimes.

Additionally, attorneys at I.S. law Firm successfully argued that our client’s failure to file for asylum within one year after her entry to the United States did not preclude her from being granted asylum, because she was only 15 when she entered the United States, which is considered “legal disability” and constitutes an “extraordinary circumstance” according to the regulations. As a result, we were able to obtain asylum for our client.

In order to obtain approval of our clients’ asylum petitions, attorneys at I.S. Law Firm gather subjective and objective evidence, country reports, complete the forms, write memorandums, thoroughly prepare the applicant for the questioning, and stand by the applicant’s side, supporting him or her throughout the entire process. We are proud of our success rates in asylum cases, both affirmative asylum cases through the USCIS and defensive asylum cases through immigration courts.


If you think you may qualify for asylum, please contact us at +1-703-527-1779 or via e-mail: [email protected].

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