Relief Under the Convention Against Torture

 

Last week I had a final hearing on an asylum claim for a client from Guatemala. He entered the United States in 2011 and had been waiting eight years for his claim to be heard. Some on the Right would say this is ridiculous however keep in mind that his wife and child remain in his home country under threat while his life in the United States is uncertain.

My client worked for a wealthy individual in Guatemala who owned a number of expensive luxury cars. My client kept some of these vehicles at his home. As a result members of a gang thought he too had money and began to leave notes at his home demanding a “war tax” on threat of violence including death. My client, Diego (not his actual name), refused to pay. After some time passed the gangsters came to his home. They were vicious. They raped his wife in front of him and then threatened to rape his eight year old daughter. When he protested they shot him a number of times. They left him for dead and stole all the money that they could find in his home.

Diego somehow survived the shooting. He went to the hospital under an assumed name and was treated. (X-rays taken in the United States show a number of bullets remain in his body.) His wife then went to the local police to report the incident however when she arrived at the station she recognized one of the police officers as one of the gang members that had raped her. She quickly turned and left the station.

Diego and his family relocated to another town but soon started receiving threatening notes again and eventually the gangsters shot up his car. He decided to leave Guatemala because relocating internally was not working. After he arrived in the United States his wife continued to receive threats stating that the gang had unfinished business with Diego.

After Diego testified in court at his hearing, the judge asked him if he had anything more to say about his case. Diego hesitated. He said he did but he requested the “other people in the court to leave.” Another attorney was sitting in the court room and the judge asked him to leave because Diego is entitled to a private hearing for his asylum claim. Diego, who is a stoic and a somewhat macho former soldier, than began to cry as he told the judge that when the gangsters threatened to rape his eight year old daughter and he asked them to stop they said that they would then have to rape him, which they then proceeded to do. He was sobbing and told the judge that he was ashamed and that “the tape of what happened plays over and over in his head.” The courtroom was then very quiet. Diego had never told anyone about this before. So what do you say after that? Well after the lump leaves your throat the first thing that comes to mind is F*ck Trump! But maybe more importantly I dare any of his supporters to sit through that hearing and still support this excuse for a president. I dare anyone to sit through that hearing and conclude that this was a hoax or scam. It’s a profound tragedy.

The judge too was shaken. It’s a powerful moment even for someone like him who’s no doubt “heard it all.” Ultimately the judge was unable to find a category of asylum that would fit Diego’s circumstance because asylum has very specific limitations. He did grant Diego relief under the Convention Against Torture (CAT) which will allow him to remain and work legally in the United States. So for now one immigrant received justice however the system that helped him must be protected as more and more Diegos desperately come to our border seeking protection.

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