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The “credible fear” of a mother & her little boy
Artwork by the late Rini Templeton. Read about her at

The “credible fear” of a mother & her little boy

Drawing by Rini Templeton, 1935-1986

I went to see three families yesterday in Karnes, and without planning to, ended up talking to seven mothers and their children. Obviously I will not represent all of them, but I hope that each woman finds representation through Karnes Pro Bono Project team.

I cannot convey what it is like to hear story after story and I’m not even going to try. Nor am I going to try to decide what’s most salient about each woman, as every story is unique, even though there are elements in common. Adding the elements together would make her identifiable.

Here, I will just redact and share one part of one page of the paper trail. An asylum officer summarized one woman’s reasons for leaving her home and recorded it on Form I-870, the “Record of Determination/Credible Fear Worksheet,” of the Department of Homeland Security Citizenship and Immigration Services.* The “You” in refers to the woman with whom the officer spoke, but in the language of the Department of Homeland Security, she is “the Alien.”

You testified that [recent date] six men went into your house and threatened to kill you and your children if you would not pay them money or sell drugs for them. They harmed your children. Two of them raped you in front of your children. Weeks later the men intercepted you and raped you again. You testified that they targeted you for money. The police visit[ed] your house to investigate the incident but they did not do anything about it. You also went to the DA’s office to file charges but they refused to do [so]. You also testified that you were threatened and chased with a knife by a [category of non-family relationship] named [Individual Bad Person]. He targeted you on account of your religion. He says that you are wasting your time attending church. You attend the [Religious Denomination] since [year] [description of often she goes]. As a result you fear they, the [Bad People] and [Individual Bad Person], would kill you should you return to [Name of Country].

This family is locked up, and ICE has refused to set a bond — so they cannot leave unless a judge orders their release on bond — because the Department of Homeland Security believes that they pose a threat to the security of the U.S. I cannot make this up. I am not that creative and I am certainly not that creative in terms of horror fantasies.

The officer found her fear credible and that she might qualify for protection under the Convention Against Torture, but that she is unlikely to qualify for asylum or the statutory “withholding of removal” (née “withholding of deportation”) that existed in federal law even before the U.S. ratified the Convention Against Torture. If a judge granted her protection against the treaty, but not asylum or the pre-ratification withholding against removal, that would mean that she would not be deported, but that her son would not have the same status. We’ll see what happens.

Children do not belong in detention centers. Survivors of rapes do not belong in detention centers. #End Family Detention

*See, if you’re interested, the USCIS written lesson on “Credible Fear,” part of its training materials for asylum officers. If that link does not work, try this: Credible-Fear-31augu2006 USCIS

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