On January 14, 2015, Judge Philip Verrillo of the Hartford, CT Immigration Court issued a written decision granting asylum to a Guatemalan man who was threatened with death. The immigration judge held that the gang’s threats gave rise to a well-founded fear of persecution based on an imputed political opinion. The judge found that in the context of current conditions in Guatemala, where gangs exercise “effective control over large areas of Guatemalan territory” and have their own political agendas, “the gang likely perceived [the Respondent’s] refusal to comply with gang members’ demands as a politically charged rejection of gang authority in his community.” Thus, “Respondent has demonstrated that his imputed anti-gang political opinions will be at least one central reason gang members target him.”
This case was handled by the Asylum and Human Rights Clinic at the University of Connecticut School of Law and the decision has been posted by Jon Bauer, Clinical Professor of Law and Richard D. Tulisano '69 Scholar in Human Rights, Director, Asylum and Human Rights Clinic, University of Connecticut School of Law
It is unlikely that this case would hold up under BIA precedent on appeal but it is a victory nonetheless. The courts have been unwilling to grant gang-based asylum claims so it is always worth noting when they do.