Woman Enslaved by Salvadoran Guerrillas to be Deported by U.S. for “Supporting Terrorists”

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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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Eva PazaliCarla CicchiDavid WolGrace Thompson Recent comment authors
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Eva Paz
Eva Paz

If escaping from terrorism is wrong, then what is right?


How do people like Pauley get into these positions of power that allow them to make decisions when that are so fundamentally flawed?! This is a ridiculous decision by this Court. I gather Judge Pauley would rather this poor woman had refused to cook & clean for her captors & been killed by them rather than follow their orders & live. Had she been raped I guess they would consider this to be providing material aid.

Carla Cicchi
Carla Cicchi

If you were kidnapped and enslaved by any violent group, you’d do what you were told to in order to stay alive and if you managed to escape from your captives, you would expect a country like the U.S. to save you and not deport you back to hell. But then that would mean that the U.S. has a responsible, ethical, and humane government which we currently do not have.

David Wol

Who appointed Robert Pauley to the Board of Immigration Appeals?? What is the name of the other SOB who concurred with Pauley?? Judges like this fit well in Nazi Germany but do not belong on ANY American judicial body.

Grace Thompson
Grace Thompson

It is so unconscionable that people who should know better are tainted by their own prejudices. The judge who delivered this immoral ruling is clearly using the law for their own purposes and not as it was intended. My heart goes out to this wretched woman. When in situations like those any one who has been brutalised whether emotionally and or physically just closes down and does what you HAVE to do to survive, to live another day in hopes of freedom asap. In some ways I am not surprised.SAD