Gang-Related Violence

After decades of internal conflicts, Central American countries are facing an epidemic of violence in the form of well-organized, heavily-armed street gangs. Gangs have contributed to the high murder rates in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, and many individuals are fleeing the region to escape death threats, harassment, beatings, and sexual assault by gang members. U.S. courts have resisted recognition of asylum claims from individuals fleeing persecution by gangs. CGRS believes gang violence that a government is unable or unwilling to control is a form of persecution that should be recognized by refugee law, and that individuals who fear gang violence may be eligible for asylum based on membership in a particular social group, political opinion, or religion – depending on the facts of the particular case.

  • Henriquez-Rivas v. Holder (2013): This case involved a 12-year-old girl from El Salvador who testifed against the gang members who murdered her father. The en banc Ninth Circuit ruled in February 2013 that the Board of Immigration Appeals misapplied its own precedent in denying asylum to Ms. Rivas and overruled cases applying an overly restrictive interpretation of the particular social group ground more broadly. CGRS filed an amicus brief in the case and presented oral argument.
  • G-M- v. Holder (pending): The asylum case of a Salvadoran Evangelical family targeted by local gang members for acting on their faith is still pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. This case raises critical issues concerning religious persecution and gang violence as a basis of asylum. CGRS has joined as co-counsel.

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