In Spanish, there is an expression: “Entre la espada y la pared,” which means: “Caught between the sword and the wall.” Recently we won a grant of asylum for a young man who witnessed members of the MS-13 gang as they chased down a Salvadoran military officer, moments before he was murdered. The gang members later threatened our client to remain silent.
A Salvadoran police officer, assigned to investigate the case, told our client’s friend, a neighbor who had actually witnessed the murder, not to say anything about what he had seen, to anyone. A few days later his friend was killed.
Members of the Salvadoran military stopped our client in public, beat him and accused him of willfully refusing to identify the gang members who killed the officer. They interrogated him, literally, with a cocked pistol at his temple. The soldiers believed he was helping MS-13 by not identifying the killers and threatened to kill him.
After our client was seen being questioned by the military, he learned MS-13 gang members had “green lighted” him to be killed by any gang member.
Many in the Salvadoran police are corrupt and have a history or working with MS-13. The military threatened to kill our client, and MS-13 was also looking to kill him. He fled to the U.S. for his life, and for safety. After hearing his testimony and reviewing the evidence which corroborated his claims, an Immigration Judge granted him asylum. While the Attorney General’s recent decision in Matter of A-B- will make it harder to win asylum in cases based upon fear of persecution by the MS-13 gang, deemed “private actors”, the persecution by the military distinguished our client’s claim. Let’s hope our country continues its proud tradition of lifting up its “lamp beside the golden door” and of offering refuge to those who flee persecution.