Note: The name has been changed, but the facts have not.
Warning: This story contains potentially traumatizing descriptions of violence.
Camila was in a long-term relationship and raised three beautiful children. Unfortunately, like many women in her native Guatemala, she suffered repeated insults, physical and sexual assault from her partner. When she became unexpectedly pregnant, he told her to get an abortion.
Camila’s partner treated her like a prostitute. He repeatedly raped her at night, in the same room where the children slept, to make sure she would not scream and wake them. He tightly squeezed her neck and threatened to kill her.
While Camila could not effectively protect herself, she tried her best to protect her children. Even after they escaped to the United States, it took another seven years – and the sustained advocacy of LCSNW’s Safe Route Immigration program – for them to find true peace and security.
In 2014, Camila planned to flee to the U.S. with her children, but when her partner found out, he forcibly joined them. Upon reaching the U.S. border in 2015, Camila separated from him and entered with the children. She disclosed to Border Patrol officers the harm and abuse she had suffered from her partner.
Camila’s story was not uncommon. For over a decade, U.S. asylum advocates tried to protect vulnerable Central American women who suffered domestic violence. Because of a culture of machismo in their home countries, their governments did not effectively protect these women.
Later in 2015, Camila and the children arrived in the Vancouver area and sought the help of Safe Route Immigration. Program advocates represented them in their removal proceedings, by applying for asylum and obtaining their work authorizations.
Early in the representation, her partner’s immigration lawyer contacted Safe Route and suggested that the former couple marry. The lawyer also unlawfully contacted Camila and gave bad legal advice, which included signing a release of information. Safe Route intervened to revoke the release and make Camila’s proceedings confidential, protecting her from him and his lawyer.
In 2017, A Portland immigration judge granted Camila and her children asylum status due to family violence. However, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) attorney asked a higher court to dismiss the approval. In 2022, the same ICE office finally agreed to asylum for Camila and her children.