A woman who was kidnapped by guerrillas in El Salvador nearly three decades ago and forced to work for them “under the threat of death” is now facing deportation after a U.S. court ruled that her enslavement constituted “material support” for terrorists.
The main appellate body of the immigration courts heard that the woman was abducted in 1990 by guerrillas, who subsequently forced her to cook and clean for them. According to court documents, the militants even “forced [her] to witness her husband, a sergeant in the Salvadoran Army, dig his own grave before being killed.”
CNN reports on the ruling:
The 2-1 opinion holds that the woman’s coerced duties for the group constituted “material support” for a terrorist organization, and thus made her ineligible to be granted asylum or have her deportation order canceled in the US — though a lower court judge had ruled she would otherwise be eligible for such relief.
The woman first came to the US illegally in 1991 but gained Temporary Protected Status — which is granted to countries that suffer natural disasters and other mass problems and was afforded to El Salvador for decades.
But she left the US and tried to return in 2004, when the government began deportation proceedings against her. Wednesday’s decision is the product of years of litigation regarding her case in the immigration courts — a judicial body for immigration-related claims run by the Justice Department.
Writing for the majority, Board of Immigration Appeals Judge Roger Pauley ruled that “material support” can be virtually anything that is provided to a terrorist organization that supports their overall mission that they would otherwise would need to seek somewhere else.
Judge Pauley went so far as to conclude that there was no exception to the “material support” bar even if the victim was “under duress,” adding that her actions did not need to be “voluntary.”
In a scathing dissent, Judge Linda Wendtland argued that the relevant statute lists examples of “material support” for terrorists, including offering safe houses, transportation, funds, and other tangible assistance.
“I cannot conclude that the menial and incidental tasks that the respondent performed — as a slave — for Salvadoran guerrillas, including cooking, cleaning, and washing clothes, are of ‘the same class’ as the enumerated forms of assistance set forth in the statute,” Wendtland wrote.
“Under the majority’s strained interpretation, providing a glass of water to a thirsty individual who happened to belong to a terrorist organization would constitute material support of that organization, because the individual otherwise would have needed to obtain water from another source.”
The woman’s only chance to overturn this verdict would be if she appeals to a federal court. Or, as CNN points out, she could “persuade Attorney General Jeff Sessions — who serves as a functional one-man Supreme Court of the immigration courts — to intervene.”
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