The Baltimore Sun has another story of a Salvadoran youth who fled to the US to escape the gangs of El Salvador and now seeks asylum in the US. The newspaper describes the legal fight waged by a lawyer in a prominent Baltimore firm providing pro bono representation to the 12 year old Salvadoran boy:
In general, asylum can be granted when someone has a well-founded fear of persecution for one of five reasons: race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a social group. The last category has been tried in gang cases, but the appeals board said those resisting gang pressure do not make up a social group.
[Lawyer] Chowdhury knew he had to thread the needle. Santos faced peril in El Salvador, the lawyer reasoned, not because he'd resisted the gang, but for a very basic reason: "Because he was his brother's brother." And a nuclear family has long been an accepted social group for asylum cases.
But as the asylum hearing approached, Chowdhury worried any gang claim might fail because of the apparent judicial skepticism. And there was a hiccup: If Santos fled because of threats to his family, why were his mother and brother still in El Salvador?
Then in February, his mother and brother made it to Texas. She'd had enough when five MS-13 members beat Pablo Michael on a soccer field. Not only were his mother and brother now in the U.S., it meant they could testify at Santos' asylum hearing.
That was not necessary. On June 11, shortly after Santos spoke, Immigration Judge Philip T. Williams granted the boy asylum. The judge embraced Chowdhury's argument, noting that the family was "mistreated in the worst way" by MS-13.(more)
The Supreme Court will not be reviewing the case of three other Salvadorans who also fled El Salvador fearing gang violence. In August, I described the case of the Mira family, who managed to persuade the US Supreme Court to block their deportation while their asylum claims were being heard. The US Justice Department has now agreed to reopen the removal proceedings facing the Mira siblings, which allows them to stay in the US while their case continues to be argued. It also eliminated the need for the US Supreme Court to address the issue of gang recruitment in Central America as the basis for an asylum claim.