Salvadoran Woman Escapes Violent Father and Husband

Maggie Morgan is HIRC’s Albert M. Sacks Clinical Teaching and Advocacy Fellow.

In a truly heart-wrenching case of domestic violence, child abuse, and sexual violence, HIRC attorneys Maggie Morgan and John Willshire Carrera, along with student Phebe Philips, were able to declare a victory for Kristina, whose name has been changed for privacy reasons. Kristina was granted asylum this year by an Immigration Judge in Boston, after escaping a horrific upbringing in El Salvador where her father and husband consistently and violently abused her mentally, physically, emotionally, and sexually.

When her husband decided to come to the United States over a decade ago, Kristina saw an opportunity to escape the abuse from her father, who continued to abuse her throughout her marriage.  Once in the United States, Kristina saw how the rights of woman in the United States were exercised and how domestic violence was treated as a crime, as opposed to in El Salvador where perpetrators of domestic violence were rarely punished. Realizing this, Kristina took the opportunity to leave her abusive husband as well.

When Kristina ’s sister was granted asylum based on the abuse she faced at the hands of their father, Kristina decided to talk to a lawyer at HIRC at Greater Boston Legal Services, the same non-profit lawyers that had helped her sister with her asylum claim. Deciding to seek legal representation was the first step of many in a long and difficult journey towards winning. Kristina had never opened up to anyone about the abuse that she suffered at the hands of her father and husband. After HIRC took her case, Kristina worked with then HLS-student Maggie Morgan under the supervision of John Willshire Carrera, who had represented her sister. Talking about the extensive abuse with her attorneys and therapists was incredibly painful, causing her to suffer from debilitating headaches and chest pains, but her incredible strength and determination helped her continue to work with her attorneys even amidst numerous delays in her case. In fact, several years later, after Maggie had graduated and now returned to the Clinic as an attorney/clinical fellow, Kristina was still waiting for her court date. This gave Maggie the opportunity to reconnect with Kristina and continue to fight for her alongside John and student Phebe Philips, who worked closely with Kristina for several months in the spring of 2015 to help submit a final filing and prepare for her hearing this past May.

One of the hardest parts about working on her case was undoubtedly the extensive interviews that go into the creation of a client affidavit. As is normal for survivors of abuse, it was very difficult for Kristina to talk about the abuse, particularly at the beginning of the process. As Maggie described, “it was just very difficult for her to speak about the trauma but she showed such courage in coming forward. It’s a very powerful story about sisters. They were willing to testify for each other even though it was incredibly painful. When we first met for our legal meetings, it was the first time that Kristina had spoken about all the abuse”.  John calls Kristina, “an incredibly brave woman” for coming forward and speaking about her abuse. He also credits Maggie for her the strong connection she was able to develop with Christina. “Maggie really was able to ask the right questions, the ones necessary to get the information to develop the claim while at the same time making Kristina feel comfortable and safe in talking about her abuse,” John said.

It takes an extraordinary amount of courage to first escape from your abuser, and then to share your trauma with a group of attorneys, interpreters, and therapists. HIRC congratulates both Kristina for her outstanding courage and attorneys Maggie Morgan, John Willshire Carrera and Phebe Philips for helping Kristina on her journey to recovery. Hopefully this asylum grant will give Kristina a second chance at a better life.